Nearly 40 percent of all community college students receive a Pell grant. For some of these students, a summer break in classes can lead to a permanent break. Offering year-round Pell (YRP) can eliminate that break and help students persist, leading to completion.
Congress is closer than ever to reinstating YRP, which was eliminated in 2011due to a large budget shortfall in the Pell Grant program. The program now has a substantial surplus and many lawmakers think now is the time to reinstate YRP.
Congress has adjourned for its summer recess, which means that most representatives will be in their home districts. Take advantage of this opportunity to meet with your representatives and advocate for key priorities, including the reinstatement of year-round Pell Grants in the final FY 2017 appropriations legislation.
In June, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bipartisan Labor, HHS and Education (LHHS) FY 17 appropriations bill that included a provision to reinstate YRP. The provision was crafted to ensure that part-time students, and not just those that complete 24 credits in the first two semesters, would be eligible.
The House Appropriations Committee’s version of the bill, however, did not reinstate YRP. The committee rejected an amendment introduced by Rep. Roybal-Allard (D-CA) to reinstate YRP. Despite this, LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) and others on the committee expressed support for YRP and a willingness to keep discussing the issue during negotiations on final FY 17 appropriations legislation.
The FY 17 appropriations likely will be finalized in an omnibus appropriations bill sometime after the election.
Between now and then, community college advocates must continue to remind their representatives in Congress about the importance of YRP to their students, and ask them to communicate to appropriators and party leaders their support for reinstating YRP, as done in the Senate bill, in final appropriations legislation.
The reasons for reinstating the YRP include:
- YRP will be an invaluable aid to students seeking to stay in school and progress more rapidly to a credential. It bears repeating: nearly 40 percent of all community college students receive a Pell Grant.
- YRP has substantial bi-partisan support on Capitol Hill and from the Obama administration. The question of reinstating it has long been a matter of how to pay for it, rather than whether to reinstate it. The Pell Grant surplus answers that question. Reinstating YRP does not require cuts to other programs.
- When YRP was suddenly eliminated, many community colleges were in the process of planning for and implementing YRP programs. These activities could resume immediately upon reinstatement of the program.
- Research has shown consistently that staying and making progress in school are important for completion. This is especially true for the neediest students who are served primarily by community colleges. Stories about how YRP would help particular students are useful advocacy tools.
Continue the conversation on our LinkedIn group.