NASFAA Lauds Reinstatement of the Year-Round Pell Grant as a Big Win for Low-Income Students, Families

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Newly Passed Federal Funding Deal Gives Neediest Students More Flexibility to Help Them Get Through College at Their Own Pace

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The return of year-round Pell marks a step forward for many students pursuing a postsecondary degree, who were limited by the current Pell Grant program.

Lawmakers took steps today to ensure that the Federal Pell Grant—a cornerstone of the federal student aid programs that gets awarded only to students with the highest proven financial need—will go even further to help low-income students get to and through college.

The $1 trillion omnibus spending bill, passed Wednesday evening by the House and today by the Senate, funds the government through the rest of fiscal year (FY) 2017 and restores year-round Pell Grants beginning in the 2017-18 award year.

Currently, regardless of a school’s cost, Pell Grants are capped at $5,815 per year—$5,920 per year starting July 1— and students can have only one scheduled award per academic year. These antiquated restrictions can be detrimental both for students who hope to complete college sooner by enrolling in summer courses, and for students who take larger than normal course loads in some semesters. But under a year-round Pell Grant program, as long as a student is working toward completion of an eligible program and attending at least half-time, eligible students can receive up to one and a half Federal Pell Grants during a single award year.

Attending college continuously throughout the year is a huge step toward helping students to stay in school. Unforeseen circumstances can arise over the summer that may prevent students from coming back the following fall. Even the costs of getting home for the summer and then back to campus can be challenging for some low-income students.

The year-round Pell Grant program also offers flexibility that the current Pell Grant does not. Under year-round Pell, students struggling to balance work and family obligations with their school work can choose to take fewer courses one semester and more the following semester without worrying about not having enough Pell Grant left to help cover the larger course load.

Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), made the following statement regarding the continued outage:

“The return of year-round Pell marks a step forward for many students pursuing a postsecondary degree, who were limited by the current Pell Grant program. The way the Pell Grant program is currently structured doesn’t work for nontraditional students—those who may have entered the workforce and then come back to school or those who don’t take the standard full course load every semester. Under year-round Pell, students who wish to pursue their degrees throughout the year will receive financial aid when they need it, rather than having to wait until the following semester, ultimately allowing them to complete their education more quickly so they can take on less debt and enter, or re-enter, the workforce more quickly.

NASFAA applauds this much-needed change, which we have long championed. We look forward to working with policymakers and implementers to ensure that the new structure will eliminate the administrative burden that year-round Pell created for financial aid administrators in its last iteration.”

To request an interview with a NASFAA spokesperson about the importance of the Federal Pell Grant and the impact this move toward reinstating year-round Pell Grants could have for students, families, and post-secondary institutions, please email timmonse(at)nasfaa.org or call (202) 785-6959.

About NASFAA

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) is a nonprofit membership organization that represents more than 20,000 financial aid professionals at nearly 3,000 colleges, universities, and career schools across the country. NASFAA member institutions serve nine out of every ten undergraduates in the United States. Based in Washington, D.C., NASFAA is the only national association with a primary focus on student aid legislation, regulatory analysis, and training for financial aid administrators. For more information, visit http://www.nasfaa.org.

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Erin Timmons
NASFAA
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