Graduate students (photo: Bruce Gilbert / Forham Alumni)


For nearly 50 years, the Pell Scholarship has been the centerpiece of federal student aid, helping those most in need of financial support to attend the college or university of their choice. The Pell Scholarships help more than 370,000 New York students and their families afford a college education each year. They have proven to be the most effective and fairest investment the federal government can make in students. Simply put, investing in Pell Grants tackles student debt head-on.

However, the federal government has not significantly increased Pell Grants for over a decade. In the meantime, colleges and universities have worked hard to fill the void, but the challenges of inadequate funding persist.

New York’s private, non-profit colleges and universities are doing their part to make higher education more accessible and affordable by providing more than $ 6.4 billion in financial aid to students of all income levels each year. In fact, 66% of students attending New York City’s private nonprofit colleges and universities come from families earning less than $ 125,000 a year. Despite the best efforts of institutions, the accessibility gap has become a growing barrier as Pell grants have remained stagnant. The federal government must step in and do its part.

Now is the time for Congress to act, but lawmakers shouldn’t pick winners and losers by investing only in students at certain colleges. Doubling the maximum Pell Grant to $ 13,000 is the fairest, most efficient and equitable way for Congress to provide higher education funding to all students who need it. Doubling the Pell Grants would allow thousands of additional students in community colleges and four-year colleges to receive the college education of their dreams while reducing student debt.

This investment would have significant benefits for students in New York and across the country. Congress has the opportunity to make a critical investment in our students and the social and economic well-being of the country itself.

The Pell scholarships were a resounding success when they were introduced in 1972, as they covered a significant percentage of students’ tuition fees. However, the cost of high quality higher education has increased and Pell grants have not kept pace. Doubling the Pell Grants is the most effective way to restore this balance and provide more students with a large financial aid grant that provides significant help with tuition fees.

The Biden administration presented a tremendous opportunity for students in New York City and across the country to receive an affordable college education of their choice. Doubling the Pell grant should be Congress’ top priority for higher education. This should be accomplished immediately, and certainly by the program’s 50th anniversary, June 23, 2022.

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by: Lola W. Brabham, Chair, Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities
Henry C. “Hank” Foley, President, New York Institute of Technology
Miguel Martinez-Saenz, President, Saint-François College
Father Joseph M. McShane, SJ, President, Fordham University
Laura Sparks, President, The Cooper Union

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