Since 1980, the federally sponsored Pell Grant makes university affordable for millions of low-income students. However, there has not been a significant adjustment made towards inflation since the grant’s conception. The University of California’s (UC) 10 campuses are all active advocates for doubling the current value of the maximum Pell Grant award from $6,500 to $13,000.
According to a UC fact sheet, the Pell Grant was originally devised to cover 75 percent of the cost for attending a four-year public university, but in 2019, this number was reduced to 28 percent. With the rates of tuition increasing each year, the percentage of costs covered by the grant is projected to decrease. Doubling the grant would be a steadfast solution to mitigate this decrease.
Implementing the growth would require a three-year period where the award amount is increased by about $2,000 each year. Although Congress has shown support for the proposal this past year, there has been no official vote deciding to raise the amount. According to the fact sheet, there has only been minimal monetary increases to the grant, which 35 percent of all UC undergraduates receive.
The UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) Office of the External Vice President for Statewide Affairs (EVPSA) recently met with Congress member Salud Carbajal to discuss the potential grant increase. In this meeting, EVPSA students were able to voice their concerns on how more Pell Grant financial aid would immensely improve their economic stability.
Such concerns are common among students across the UCs and other higher education institutions.
“With that grant, I was able to pay my tuition and even had extra money from other scholarships, which was super convenient because it covered my rent,” UCSB alumni Fidel Lopez commented. “It was super helpful and was a deciding factor on why I went to university.”
The grant is especially helpful for students paying for university without finances from their families. As UC San Diego student Husnaa Jamshed explained on the UC Double the Pell Website, “I’m responsible for financially providing for myself without the aid of my family, instead relying on grants like the Pell Grant to put a roof over my head and food in my fridge.”
“As a first generation, low-income student of color, the Pell Grant was a big blessing and a determining factor in my decision to pursue higher education,” UC Berkeley student Millie Hernandez added on the website.
Underprivileged students — who may be undergoing food insecurity, excessive rent burdens, or crippling debts — all across the country would receive the greatest assistance if the award grant allowed for more funds.
A petition was recently created by the UC asking to streamline the support for doubling the grant award; it has received over 10,000 signatures. Furthermore, the UC system wants to hear the opinions and stories of students who have benefited from the Pell Grant. A forum page was set up for students who would be interested in sharing their voice.
For UCSB students who are interested in participating more directly in the movement, the EVPSA Office is currently searching for a specialized campaign coordinator. Anyone interested can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. For more updates on how UCSB is addressing the increase in the Pell Grants award amount, follow their Instagram page at @ucsbevpsa.