Obama Calls for Pell Grant Changes to Accelerate Progress Toward Degrees

To help students make quicker progress toward earning degrees, the Obama administration is calling for a significant expansion of the Pell Grant program that would make the grants available year-round and reward students who take a full schedule of courses each semester.

Together, the two proposals would mean an additional $2 billion in Pell Grant assistance during the 2017 fiscal year, the Education Department said in a news release.

Reinstating year-round Pell Grants — a provision that fell victim to budget cuts in 2011 — would help students finish degrees faster by letting them take more courses during an academic year. Many students now exhaust their annual Pell eligibility after just two semesters and are unable to pay for summer courses. The new proposal would provide nearly 700,000 students with an additional $1,915, on average, next year, the department said.

As an incentive for students to stay on track or accelerate their progress toward earning an associate or bachelor’s degree, the administration is also proposing an “On-Track Pell Bonus” that would raise the maximum Pell Grant award by $300 for students who take 15 credits per semester in an academic year. The bonus would encourage students to take the credits needed to finish an associate degree in two years or a bachelor’s degree in four years. The proposal would help an estimated 2.3 million students next year, the department said.

Both proposals build on the administration’s push for every American to earn a postsecondary credential and get training they need to find a well-paying job in the changing economy.

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