(CNN) – President Joe Biden’s plan to make community college tuition free is unlikely to qualify for the final bill to expand the country’s social safety net. But increasing the federal Pell grant is still on the table and could have a big impact on low-income students.
The latest proposal would add up to $ 500 Pell grant, currently set at $ 6,495. The award – a key part of the federal financial aid system since the 1970s – does not need to be repaid and can be used by qualifying low-income students to pay for tuition, fees, room and board. and food, as well as other costs related to education.
The proposed boost is smaller than the $ 1,400 increase Biden had originally requested in his Build Back Better program and is well below his campaign engagement double the maximum amount, something many democrats have grown in recent years.
Negotiations are in progress on Biden’s 10-year spending plan, initially valued at $ 3.5 trillion, and changes could still be made. Some moderate Democrats are concerned the price is too high, and Biden revealed this week that some of his priorities will be missed, including his plan to make two years of community college tuition free.
Biden, whose wife Jill biden is a community college teacher, stressed out during a CNN town hall On Thursday, making community colleges free remains a priority for his administration even if it is not in this bill.
“I’ll do it,” Biden said. “If I don’t, I’ll sleep alone for a long time,” he added with a laugh.
Larger Pell Grants vs. Free Community College
A great advantage of Pell Grants is that they can help cover costs related to education beyond tuition and fees.
First-time full-time undergraduates in two-year public colleges have received on average enough grants to cover their tuition and fees – which average $ 3,770 per year – since the 2009-2010 school year, according to the non-profit association. College Council.
These are the other costs for books, laptops, transportation, shelter, and food that many community college students end up taking out loans to pay for. These additional expenses average $ 14,780 per year for a full-time student and would not necessarily be covered by a free tuition program.
It’s unclear exactly how Biden’s free community college plan would have worked, but many free nationwide and local tuition programs don’t help cover the additional training costs.
Yet advocates for free community colleges argue that these programs are worth it, in part because they lead to an increase in registrations. The clear message that tuition is free makes students more aware of the financial aid available.
Pell grants don’t cover as much as they used to
Pell scholarships are also available for undergraduates in public and private four-year colleges. About 7 million students have received a Pell Scholarship each year for the past five years. The amount of the scholarship is awarded on a sliding scale and is based on the family’s estimated financial need, determined by the information the student submits on the Free Federal Student Aid Application, known as FAFSA. The smallest reward is currently worth $ 650.
About 95% of the families of Pell beneficiaries did not earn more than $ 60,000 during the 2017-18 school year, according to the most recent data available.
But the amount of the Pell grant, which is set by Congress on an annual basis, covers a smaller portion of the cost of the university than before. The annual increase has ranged between $ 100 and $ 175 over the past five years.
“We are grateful for any increase,” said Karen McCarthy, vice president of public policy and federal relations at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. The group calls on Congress to double the Pell grant.
“But even with these small increases year over year, the Maximum Pell Grant does not have the purchasing power it had when it was created,” she added.
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