Senate advances bill to increase Pell Grant Award

Marissa Wallace

Changes to Pell Grant may total as much as $1 million collectively for CSUN Pell recipients. File Photo Illustration.

The U.S. Senate Appropriations committee passed an education spending bill this month that will raise the maximum Pell Grant by $85 and would give $100 million in funding to the National Institutes of Health in 2013.

The bill would allow for a slight increase in Pell grants from $5,550 to $5,635 beginning in the 2013-14 academic year and would also stand as the first increase in this financial award since 2010-11.

“We are always in favor of increasing the Pell Grant maximum. It can help reduce student indebtedness,” said Lili Vidal, director of the financial aid and scholarship department at CSUN.

With more than 17,000 student recipients of the Pell Grant award at CSUN, Vidal said that this increase could mean a collective gain of $1 million for students.

Student debt from education loans is often a heavy burden and primary concern for students in pursuit of their degree, said graduate student Lenny Daniel.

“The increase in the Pell Grant award would be great especially for students who aren’t really able to afford college. To not have to worry about paying back loans and receiving this grant helps out tremendously,” said Daniel.

Prior to accepting the measure, lawmakers made an amendment that would allow for the restoration of federal financial aid eligibility for students who do not hold high school diplomas or GED’s, but have passed an “ability to benefit” test. Eligibility for these students was restricted in the 2012 fiscal year.

A second amendment to this measure calls for the restoration of $50.72 million in funding to the Math and Science Partnership program. This program focuses on providing grants to projects that are dedicated to improving mathematics and science education through partnerships between colleges and “high-need” school districts.

The bill passed by a 10-to-7 vote and was opposed by many Republicans because it would help finance President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

The amendments to the bill now go on to face the full Senate and the House of Representatives. A House Appropriations panel is set to draft its own version of the bill.