Washington, DC, June 2, 2016 – Declaring that “meeting the financial needs of community college students is critical to the economic competitiveness of our country,” Rebuilding America’s Middle Class (RAMC) has written a letter to Congress urging restoration of the Summer Pell Grant program as part of the 2017 appropriations process.
The author of the timely letter is Dr. Joseph May, Chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD), and president of RAMC, a coalition of state and individual community college systems from across the country representing over 130 colleges and 1.5 million students.
The RAMC letter was sent to Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA) and Reps. Tom Cole (R-OK) and Rose DeLauro (D-CT), the chairmen and ranking members respectively of the U.S. Senate and House appropriations subcommittees on labor, health, human services and education. The letter affirms that Pell Grants are the foundation of student aid for community college students.
“Even with the low-cost, high quality education offered by community colleges, our students often struggle to afford school and meet the financial needs of their families,” wrote Dr. May on behalf of RAMC. “Whether a newly graduated high school senior or adult is seeking a certificate or Associate degree to further their education, or working to obtain or improve their employment situation, Pell Grants provide the means for these students to achieve educational success.”
Explained May: “Restoring the Summer Pell program can be a vital tool to ensuring these students reach their educational goals faster and at the least cost. Taking off the summer from college classes doesn’t make sense for a student seeking to maximize their learning potential and obtain their certificate or degree as quickly as possible.”
The RAMC letter requests the inclusion of two important provisions related to Summer Pell. First, RAMC urges that any Summer Pell program should be accessible to working students who take less than 15 credit hours a semester. While RAMC acknowledges taking 15 credit hours a semester is necessary for a student to graduate with an Associate degree in 2 years, the coalition notes that many community college students cannot take this course load and effectively balance work and family responsibilities.
Second, RAMC advises that if the Subcommittee decides to use a portion of the current surplus in the Pell Grant program as a revenue source for additional spending, the coalition believes that there should be a priority for using such funds to restore the Summer Pell Grant. RAMC notes that when Congress cut Pell eligibility in 2011, community college students bore the brunt of those changes through reduced or no Pell aid. Now, writes Dr. May on behalf of RAMC, “. . .the current Pell surplus must and should be used to ensure that Pell-dependent students have greater financial means to pay for college.”
About RAMC: Rebuilding America’s Middle Class (RAMC) is a coalition of state and individual community college systems from across the country representing over 130 colleges and 1.5 million students. To learn more about RAMC and its advocacy efforts, visit www.ramc.org.