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Congresswoman Elise Stefanik

Representing the 21st District of New York

Stefanik, Bustos, Curbelo Introduce Legislation to Expand Access to Critical Pell Grants

March 9, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) and Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26) introduced the Flexible Pell Grant for 21st Century Students Act -- commonsense legislation that expands flexibility for Pell Grants so that these important education resources are available for qualifying students all year round.

“As the youngest Member of Congress and the Chair of the House Republican Policy Committee’s Millennial Task Force, I am pleased to introduce this important, bipartisan measure to help make college more affordable for North Country families,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “This legislation is a direct result of concerns that were raised from my Higher Education roundtables throughout the district, and from Carole McCoy, President of Jefferson Community College. 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 and I urge my colleagues to support this commonsense legislation.”

“As the mother of three boys, I know how important quality and affordable education is to getting a good-paying job and building a better life for hardworking Illinoisans in our region,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “After visiting each of the seven community colleges in our Congressional District, I heard from students and administrators about the need for more flexibility for Pell Grant awards – that’s why over the past few years, I’ve been pushing strongly for this bipartisan and commonsense legislation. This bill would give students more options in choosing when to take classes and would enable them to save money by entering the workforce faster. The colleges and universities in our region offer a pathway to success to so many Illinois students, so I’ll continue to do everything I can to help make higher education affordable and accessible for all.”

“We need to ensure students who wish to complete a postsecondary education can do so as quickly and affordably as possible,” said Congressman Curbelo. “This bipartisan bill would help many South Florida students graduate faster and at a lower cost by providing them the flexibility to draw Pell Grant funds at a faster pace to pay for additional courses.”

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.

To modernize the Pell Grant program for all students, Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21), Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) and Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26) have introduced the Flexible Pell Grant for 21st Century Students Act. This bipartisan legislation will help students complete a postsecondary education more quickly and at a lower cost.

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