Proposed changes in Pell Grant eligibility would allow summer class funding

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The Trump administration may bring back the summer Pell Grant program, which provided low-income students with funding for summer classes until it was cut in 2011 under the Obama administration.

The Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to undergraduate students to promote access to higher education for low-income students. Under President Donald Trump’s administration, the proposed ACCESS Act would restore year-round Pell Grant eligibility while keeping the same funding level for the program in the 2018 fiscal year as the 2017 fiscal year.

In 2011, former president Barack Obama signed a legislative compromise that tightened eligibility requirements for Pell Grant recipients while keeping the maximum grant amount at $5,550 per academic year. Under these restrictions, students cannot get funding for summer classes. The proposed eligibility criteria would bring back funding for the summer, which proponents say will help students graduate on time.

Parshan Khosravi, UC Student Association (UCSA) treasurer and UCLA graduate student, said funding for summer classes is important to keep students on track to graduate in four years.

“Sometimes, missing even one class could put you off the track for your academic career,” Khosravi said. “That’s why summer classes are so important for students to get back on the track.”

According to Khosravi, many students need to attend summer classes to graduate in four years, but this is often too expensive for low-income students. He added that the Pell Grant program has a funding surplus and that advocates such as the UCSA believe the program can be expanded to help fund the summer Pell Grant.

The Campaign for College Opportunity’s report on financial aid from this past year found that even taking into account the Pell Grants received by low-income high school students, the program would still have a surplus of $33,699,109 for students in the Bay Area.

Khosravi said he believes that the current Pell Grant surplus would be enough to support year-round grants, which would include the funding of summer programs.

Rep. Linda Sánchez, D-California, said in a press release that she used a combination of financial aid and part-time jobs to graduate from UC Berkeley in four years. She added that Pell Grants help students achieve their dreams of going to college.

“The ACCESS Act will restore year-round Pell Grants for more than 8 million students who are working hard to earn their college degree,” Sanchez said in the press release.

David Craig, treasurer of the Berkeley College Republicans, said in an email he believes this proposed eligibility criteria would help students monopolize on the advantages of graduating on time.

“Assuming the educational quality of summer courses to be the same as those of other semesters, this will allow students at their option to finish their degree programs faster and join the workforce,” Craig said in an email.

Contact Ambika Jaykrishna at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @a_jaykrishna.