Report: Doubling the Pell Grant Could Serve as Precursor to Free College


Owen Daughtery
May 19, 2021
The diminishing purchasing power of the Pell Grant has been well-documented over the years, and President Joe Biden’s recent proposal calling for a $1,400 increase to the grant as part of his recently unveiled infrastructure package proposal could lay the groundwork for a doubling of the maximum award in the future.
Biden called the increase a “down payment” toward his commitment to double the maximum award. And a new report from the center-left think tank Third Way argues that doubling the maximum award will represent a significant down payment toward another progressive priority of making public colleges — both two- and four-year — tuition-free.
While there is an ongoing and robust debate regarding the best way to increase college access and improve affordability, the report asserts that using the existing federal grant program and doubling Pell will best assist those with the most financial need and move toward making the idea of free college a reality.
NASFAA has urged for doubling the maximum Pell Grant, as its purchasing power has decreased compared to previous decades, noting the benefits to both students and society that will come from such an investment from the federal government.
The report breaks down in detail how the doubled average and maximum Pell Grant awards would cover the average tuition and fees for in-state students at public two-year colleges, public four-year colleges, and the average total cost of attendance for in-state students at public two-year colleges.