Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks

Representing the 5th District of Indiana
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Brooks introduces bill to expand access to Pell grants for current college students

Oct 5, 2019
In The News

On Friday, Representatives Susan W. Brooks (Ind.-05) and Derek Kilmer (Wash.-06) introduced the Pell Plus Act of 2019, new legislation to promote college completion by establishing partnerships between colleges and universities to provide a Pell Grant bonus to low-income students in their third and fourth years on a path to on-time graduation.

“One of the most challenging factors students today must consider when deciding whether or not to pursue higher education is the financial burden of enrollment,” said Brooks. “The Pell Plus Act provides students flexibility to choose a college path that best suits their needs all while ensuring students can graduate with the least amount of debt possible. I am proud to lead this bipartisan legislation because with this bill, we can help improve graduation rates and reduce the increasing amount of student debt in our country.”

“Education is the door to economic opportunity, and for a lot of families, financial aid programs are the key to that door,” said Kilmer. “Pell Grants are particularly important for middle class families, but even with that vital support, students and their families often end up saddled with debt. The Pell Plus program that we’re proposing will help students complete their college degree on-time, provide more financial aid, and lower their debt burden. This is a win for students, a win for educational institutions, and a win for local employers who are hungry for workers.”

“Rep. Susan Brooks has always been a strong advocate for all Hoosier students and private, nonprofit colleges in Indiana” said John S. Pistole, President of Anderson University. “Her leadership in introducing Pell Plus legislation is deeply appreciated, especially by institutions like Anderson University that educates a large number of first-generation and other students with financial need. These are the very students who need that extra support to persist in and complete college. And most importantly, it enables them to complete their education on a timely basis with appropriate financial assistance. Pell Plus targets just this desired outcome.”

“Indiana Wesleyan University applauds Rep. Susan Brooks for introducing Pell Plus legislation that will incentive students to complete their degrees and to complete them in four years.  It is a proposal that makes sense from every perspective – educational, fiscal, and societal” said Dr. David W. Wright, President of Indiana Wesleyan University. “It supports the very students who face some of the greatest challenges to completing their degrees to do just that and do it on time, allowing them to avoid additional college costs, get a jumpstart on their careers and earnings, and begin giving back to their communities.  This is truly a win-win.”

Dr. Paige Cunningham, Interim President of Taylor University commented, “It’s not often that an innovative idea comes along that makes sense in every way – supporting students with the most need, encouraging degree completion to create much-needed talent for our country’s workforce, and resulting in a financial win-win for both the recipients and a federal aid program.  Pell Plus is just such a rare and positive convergence, benefiting all around.  Taylor University is proud that Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana is the one introducing this into the legislative process.  Thank you, Congresswoman Brooks!”

“From her earliest days in public service, Congresswoman Susan Brooks has always been a creative problem solver. She understands how legislation can make a difference in the lives of our everyday Americans. Her support of Pell Plus is another example of her thoughtful and positive way of affecting change,” said David W. Wantz, resident, Independent Colleges of Indiana, Inc. “The 30 Independent Colleges of Indiana are grateful to Congresswoman Brooks’ endorsement and support of Pell Plus. Ninety percent of students attending private colleges in Indiana receive some sort of financial aid, the majority coming from the institutions themselves. Sixty percent of the students complete their college degrees in four years. So, with Pell Plus we will be able to incentivize even more students to finish their degrees and to get into the workforce or go on for advanced degrees. This is good news for taxpayers because it means a more efficient use of Pell dollars.”

“America’s independent colleges and universities applaud Reps. Derek Kilmer and Susan Brooks for their constructive approach to addressing college affordability through the innovative Pell Plus Act of 2019,” said Barbara K, Mistick, D.M., President of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. “The federal student aid programs have always targeted the needs of low- and middle-income students and families, and this legislation extends that support. We wholeheartedly support the Pell Plus Act of 2020.”

“Washington companies look for the skills that a four-year liberal arts education delivers: The ability to work in a team, problem-solving skills, written and verbal communication skills and a strong work ethic. With this Pell Plus legislation, the federal government would give colleges and universities a tool to encourage students to complete their baccalaureate degrees. By providing a Pell Grant bonus to low-income students in their third and fourth years who are on a path to on-time completion, we can help more students cross the finish line,” said Terri Standish-Kuon, President and CEO of Independent Colleges of Washington. “This innovative proposal will help us ensure the pipeline of educated and skilled students for the robust and competitive workforce that is key to powering our state’s economy. We look forward to working with Rep. Kilmer and Rep. Brooks to encourage Congress to adopt this legislation.”

Background

The Pell Plus Act of 2019 would help promote college completion by establishing a partnership with colleges and universities to provide a Pell Grant bonus to low-income students in their third and fourth years who are on a path to on-time graduation. This completion goal could be accomplished by assuring that on-time graduates receive the same amount of Pell Grant assistance as those who take six academic years to earn a degree.

Pell Plus has two major components:

  1. Third- and fourth-year students who are on track to graduate in four years would be given access to the same total Pell Grant amounts that are currently made available only to those who take six years to complete.
  2. Bonus amounts would be matched dollar-for-dollar by participating colleges and universities.

The net effect of this proposal would be to triple the amount of Pell Grant assistance during the final two years of study for students who are on track to on-time completion. Using the 2019-2020 academic year as a baseline, the nation’s lowest income students would receive an annual grant of $18,585 to attend the college of their choice.

The Pell Plus Act of 2019 encourages on-time college completion, reduced student debt loads, and institutional “skin in the game,” while continuing the federal commitment to investing in the nation’s neediest students.

The following organizations have announced their support for the legislation:

  • Alabama Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
  • Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities
  • Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges
  • Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts
  • Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio
  • Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania
  • Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island
  • Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design
  • Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges & Universities
  • Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities
  • Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities
  • Association of Vermont Independent Colleges (AVIC)
  • College Visions
  • Conference for Mercy Higher Education
  • Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area
  • Council of Independent Colleges
  • CT Conference of Independent Colleges
  • Georgia Independent College Association
  • Independent Colleges and Universities of Missouri
  • Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, Inc. (ICUT)
  • Independent Colleges of Indiana
  • Independent Colleges of Washington
  • Kansas Independent College Association
  • Maryland Independent College & University Association
  • Michigan Independent Colleges & Universities
  • Minnesota Private College Council
  • National Association for College Admission Counseling
  • National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
  • North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities
  • NYS Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities
  • South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities
  • Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association
  • Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
  • Yes We Must Coalition
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