Washington, D.C. – Today, the FY2017 Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed the House of Representatives with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s (R-NY-21) initiative to expand access to Pell Grants year-round included. More information on the Omnibus can be found here.

“Since first arriving in Congress I’ve been fighting to expand access to Pell year-round so that our North Country students have more flexibility and access to an affordable education,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “The idea for this legislative initiative came from Jefferson Community College President Carole McCoy at a higher education roundtable I hosted in the district.

“Right now, Pell Grants are only available for qualifying students during the fall and spring semesters. By expanding the eligibility window to include summer classes and increasing the possible maximum Pell Grant award by 50 percent, we can make sure that low and middle income families have added flexibility to achieve a college degree. As the first member of my immediate family to graduate from college, making higher education more affordable and more accessible is a top priority of mine as a Member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. I look forward to seeing the Senate pass this legislation quickly and send it to the President to be signed into law.”

Student demographics have changed dramatically in recent decades. Whereas the majority of students used to enroll in a four-year, full-time program fresh out of high school, an increasing number of students – “contemporary students” – are older, have a family, and work full- or part-time jobs. These students are looking to quickly and affordably earn a degree that will help them compete and succeed in the workforce.

Unfortunately, outdated higher education programs do not meet the needs of contemporary students. For example, while the Pell Grant provides support for more than one-third of all undergraduate students, the program fails to adequately support those who want to complete their studies more quickly by taking additional courses beyond the traditional academic year. Instead, students who receive Pell Grants are bound to a rigid system based on a six-year, two-semester timeline – discouraging many students from pursing higher education altogether.

What They’re Saying:

Carole A. McCoy, President, Jefferson Community College: I greatly appreciate Congresswoman Stefanik’s steadfast commitment to helping students reach their educational goals.  Her support for enhancements to the Pell program has been unwavering and it is gratifying to see these efforts come to fruition.  The increase in the annual Pell maximum helps to make higher education more affordable for the neediest students. Restoration of year-round access to Pell funding is beneficial to all students, but especially for part-time students who are often working toward their degree while holding a job and having a family. 

Nancy L. Zimpher, SUNY Chancellor: “As the foundation of federal student aid, the Pell Grant program provides college access for students who might not otherwise be able to attend college, so this is a big win for SUNY students now and in the future," said “We appreciate Congresswoman Stefanik and her colleagues work to reinstate Year Round Pell, helping thousands of SUNY students complete their degrees on time and at less cost.”

Kristine Duffy, President, SUNY Adirondack: "Congresswoman Stefanik's tireless and steadfast commitment to the needs of students has finally come to fruition through the restoration of year-round PELL. SUNY Adirondack's eligible students will have the necessary funds to keep them on track to graduate by staying enrolled throughout the year. We thank her and all other members of Congress for their support of our neediest students."

Todd Moravec, Director of Student Financial Services, SUNY College at Plattsburgh: “The passage of the Flexible Pell Grant program will allow our high-need students continue to make progress toward their Bachelor's degree during the summer months.  Students who elect to capitalize on this opportunity should graduate faster and accumulate less student debt along the way.  On behalf of our high need-students, I would like to thank Congresswoman Elise Stefanik for her support of this program.”