Washington, DC, September 8, 2016 – Underscoring that Pell Grants “are the foundation of student aid for community college students,” Rebuilding America’s Middle Class (RAMC) has again called on Congress to restore the Summer Pell Grant program in the final fiscal year 2017 appropriations bill. The RAMC letter also calls for Summer Pell to be made available for working, part-time students and requests that the use of any Pell surplus funding be prioritized for its restoration.
RAMC is a coalition of state and individual community college systems from across the country representing over 130 colleges and 1.5 million students. The signatory of the letter on behalf of RAMC is Dr. Joseph May, Chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD), and president of RAMC.
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. A similar letter was sent to the same appropriators in June 2016.
Reinforcing the critical role of Pell Grants to RAMC and other community college schools and systems, Dr. May wrote: “We know that each of you recognizes the importance and benefits of Pell Grants and understands that they are the foundation of student aid for community college students.” He continued: “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.”
Dr. May explained that because the Summer Pell program was cut from the budget in 2011, many students have been prevented from taking classes in the summer due to a lack of aid or other ability to pay for college.
“This shortchanges a student seeking to maximize their learning potential and obtain their certificate or degree as quickly and inexpensively as possible,” Dr. May wrote. “Restoring the Summer Pell Grant program is a much needed step towards improving the graduate rates of our students, enhancing their likelihood of finding gainful employment, and increasing the economic strength of our country.”
The RAMC letter also 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. 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.
Dr. May explained that when Congress cut Pell eligibility in 2011, community college students bore the brunt of those changes through reduced or no Pell aid. “The current Pell surplus must be used to ensure that our Pell-dependent students have greater financial means to pay for college,” he wrote.
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.