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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



S. 1467. A bill to establish an Early Federal Pell Grant Commitment Demonstration Program; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Early Federal Pell Grant Commitment Demonstration Program Act of 2007.

This legislation addresses some of the disparities in our current system with an innovative way to clear the hurdles that lack of information and high costs often form to prevent low-income students from planning for a college education. A recent report by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center concluded that grant programs ``that are well targeted and have more predictable and larger awards tend to have larger impacts on college-going rates.'' This bill, I am pleased to say, establishes such a program.

Right now, students do not find out if they are eligible for Federal aid until their senior year, much less how much they will receive. If you have ever put kids through college, like I have, you know that this time frame doesn't allow much leeway for planning ahead. An earlier promise of Federal aid will begin the conversation about college early and continue it through high school. That way, students and their families can visualize college in their future, and this goal can sustain them through the moment they open their letter of acceptance. This promise can be especially important in changing the expectations of low-income students whose future plans often don't include college.

My bill would provide funding for a demonstration in four states, each of which would work with two cohorts of up to 10,000 eighth grade students; one in school year 2007-2008, and one in school year 2008-2009. By using the same eligibility criteria as the National School Lunch Program, students would be identified based on need in the eighth grade. Eligible students would qualify for the Automatic Zero Expected Family Contribution on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA, guaranteeing them a maximum Pell Grant. Local educational agencies with a National School Lunch Program participation rate above 50 percent would be eligible for the program.

The Early Federal Pell Grant Commitment Demonstration Program would also provide funding for states, in conjunction with the participating local educational agencies, to conduct targeted information campaigns beginning in the eighth grade and continuing through students' senior year. These campaigns would inform students and their families of the program and provide information about the cost of a college education, State and Federal financial assistance, and the average amount of aid awards. A targeted information campaign, along with a guarantee of a maximum Pell grant, would allow families and students to plan ahead for college and develop an expectation that the future includes higher education.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

S. 1467


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