Another Voice: Doubling the Pell Grant would make college more accessible | Opinion


Like many educators, I have advocated for and stressed the importance of increasing federal aid for low- and modest-income students.

Katherine Conway-Turner, Ph.D., is president of SUNY Buffalo State College.

File photo Derek Gee/News

The foundational grant I would like to highlight today is the Pell Grant, a grant that President Biden supported as part of his “Build Back Better” plan, and a grant that I would like to see doubled.

Under the Higher Education Act of 1965, the Pell Scholarship has helped countless students with financial need enter and complete undergraduate programs in every state across this country for over 50 years. Objectively, this source of federal aid has served as the foundation for making a college education possible for generations of students. Most people can understand that students with high needs need financial assistance to enroll and succeed in college.

When I was a student, I received an early version of these grants, the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant, which supported students in need. A personal reference and almost 40 years of experience in higher education reinforce the importance of these scholarships.

In the early years, the Pell Grant funded a significantly larger share of student spending – 75% compared to 30% today. At that time, students could work a summer job, save their money and cover the difference between their Pell grant and the rest of the cost of their education. While students today certainly welcome a Pell scholarship, it only covers a small portion of that same undergraduate education. This is why I strongly support doubling the Pell Grant funding.


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