A group of 13 Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to leaders in the House of Representatives last Friday asking them to revise a part of the Build Back Better Act that extends a boost in the Pell Grant award only to students who attend nonprofit public and private institutions.
The latest version of President Biden’s social spending plan includes a $550 increase to the maximum annual Pell Grant, federal aid available to low- and moderate-income students that doesn’t have to be repaid. But lawmakers drew a line between for-profit and nonprofit institutions in drafting the language, an unusual move for federal financial aid policy.
The group of Democrats wrote in their letter that passing the provision as is would “hurt students, not institutions” and wouldn’t accomplish the objective of holding institutions accountable.
“Congress has never passed legislation creating this type of distinction in the Pell Grant program,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge you not to break from that bipartisan tradition and hope you will ensure that all low-income students are eligible for the expanded Pell Grant.”
The letter referenced comments made by Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, who is not supportive of excluding for-profit students from the Pell Grant increase. Draeger said parceling funds out by institutional sector would add complexities to a financial aid system in need of simplification.