Congress reinstates summer federal Pell Grant

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Congress passed a bipartisan budget deal Monday to restore the summer Pell Grant, part of the larger federal Pell Grant financial aid program, which was originally repealed in 2011.

The deal extends the federal Pell Grant program, providing financial aid to students over summer sessions. According to University of California Student Association, or UCSA, President Ralph Washington Jr. in an email, summer Pell Grants will be available in the 2017-18 academic year.

“Pell Grants ensure that low-income students are able to enroll in college,” said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, in an email. “Year-round access to Pell Grant funds is essential to keeping students on track for graduation.”

According to campus student and UCSA Government Relations Committee chair Suher Adi, there has been a nationwide increase in the number of students who stay in college for more than four years. Within the UC system, rising tuition requires students to take up jobs alongside classes, Adi said, sometimes causing work overload and delaying academic progress.

The summer Pell Grant was removed under the Obama administration following an economic recession, said UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council External Vice President Rafi Sands. As more families qualified for Pell Grant due to economic hardship, Sands said, the grant’s expenditures increased immensely.

According to Adi, the UCSA has pushed for the summer grant ever since it was removed from the Pell Grant package, advocating for its reinstatement on multiple lobby trips.

“We had a different script for Democrats and Republicans,” Sands said. “Republicans want jobs, jobs, jobs. For (Democrats), it’s about education.”

Washington said  he and UC President Janet Napolitano jointly sent a letter to Congress requesting the reinstatement of year-round grants last November.

According to Sands, about 40 percent of the UC system’s students qualify for the Pell Grant.

As much as $2,960 of the Pell Grant may be allocated to summer financial aid, Washington said in a text message.

Incoming ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Andrew-Ian Bullitt said, however, that the summer Pell Grant may not be as impactful as he hoped. Undergraduates must pay $410 per summer unit, meaning that summer grants may allow students to take either two 2-unit classes or one 4-unit class, Bullitt said.

“The fight is nowhere near over,” Adi said. “It’s kind of like a straw man — they give us summer Pell (grants), but what are they going to take from us?”

In exchange for granting students financial aid over the summer, Adi said, Congress may reduce protections against predatory student loans. Also, the existing Pell Grant surplus may also be reallocated to other uses.

Additionally, the current allocation for summer Pell Grant is only effective for the 2017-18 fiscal year, Washington said in an email, adding that continued support for the Pell Grant is crucial.

Contact Charlene Jin at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @CharleneJin0327.

A previous version of this article mistakenly said as much as $1,920 of Pell Grant money may be allocated to summer financial aid. In fact, the maximum amount that can be allocated in the summer is $2,960.