Text: S.2194 — 113th Congress (2013-2014)All Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in Senate (04/01/2014)

2d Session
S. 2194

To improve the Federal Pell Grant program, and for other purposes.


April 1, 2014

Ms. Hirono (for herself, Mr. Reed, and Mr. Whitehouse) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions


To improve the Federal Pell Grant program, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short title.

This Act may be cited as the “Pell Grant Protection Act”.

SEC. 2. Purpose.

The purpose of this Act is to restore the role of Federal Pell Grants as the foundational Federal investment in higher education, in order to strengthen the economy of the United States by improving opportunities for low-income students to complete higher education and join the middle class.

SEC. 3. Findings.

Congress finds the following:

(1) Federal Pell Grants provided under section 401 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1070a) (referred to in this Act as “Federal Pell Grants”) have historically been the fundamental Federal investment in helping low-income students pay for college and enter the middle class. In the 1979–1980 academic year, the maximum Federal Pell Grant paid for 77 percent of the average cost of attendance at an in-State, 4-year institution of higher education. However, in the 2012–2013 academic year, the maximum Federal Pell Grant covered only about 30 percent of that average cost of attendance.

(2) The program providing Federal Pell Grants already acts as a quasi-entitlement, in which both mandatory funding and discretionary funding combine to maintain a maximum Federal Pell Grant amount.

(3) The Congressional Budget Office reports on any overall financial surplus or shortfall in the funding provided for the Federal Pell Grant program. However, in recent years, in order to meet the maximum Federal Pell Grant level with the provided level of funding, Congress has made cuts to the program through imposing additional eligibility requirements for Federal Pell Grants and limiting the availability of year-round Federal Pell Grants, causing significant uncertainty and reducing access to higher education for millions of hardworking college students.

(4) Removing the Federal Pell Grant program from the uncertainty of the congressional discretionary appropriations process will improve student access to, and the affordability of, higher education.

(5) The “traditional student” who attends college for 4 years immediately after high school is now a minority of college students today. Ambitious students now need more flexibility to attend school year-round while juggling work schedules.

(6) Section 1860 of the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (Public Law 112–10, 125 Stat. 169) eliminated the provision of the Federal Pell Grant program of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1070a et seq.) that allowed 2 Federal Pell Grant awards per year, creating significant hardship for many students trying to take courses over the summer or outside the traditional school calendar. Allowing students to continue to receive Federal Pell Grants in successive semesters, without a gap, would reduce the time needed to complete their degrees.

SEC. 4. Converting the traditional Federal Pell Grant program to a mandatory spending program.

(a) Legislative provisions.—Section 401(b) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1070a(b)) is amended—

(1) in paragraph (2)—

(A) in subparagraph (A)—

(i) by striking clauses (i) and (ii) and inserting the following:

“(i) (I) for award year 2014–2015, $5,730; or

“(II) for award year 2015–2016 and each subsequent award year, the amount of the maximum Federal Pell Grant determined under this clause for the immediately preceding award year, increased by a percentage equal to the estimated percentage increase, if any, in the Consumer Price Index (as determined by the Secretary, using the definition in section 478(f)) for the most recent calendar year ending prior to the beginning of that award year; plus

“(ii) any additional amount specified for the maximum Federal Pell Grant in the last enacted appropriation Act applicable to that award year, less”; and

(B) by adding at the end the following:

“(C) (i) For fiscal year 2015 and each succeeding fiscal year, there are appropriated, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, such sums as may be necessary to provide, in combination with any amounts separately appropriated under subparagraph (A)(ii), Federal Pell Grants under this section in the amount specified in subparagraph (A) to all eligible students.

“(ii) The amounts made available by clause (i) for any fiscal year shall be available beginning on October 1 of that fiscal year, and shall remain available through September 30 of the succeeding fiscal year.”; and

(2) by striking paragraph (7).

(b) Effective date.—The amendments made by subsection (a) shall apply with respect to Federal Pell Grants awarded under section 401 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1070a) for award year 2014–2015 and each succeeding award year.

SEC. 5. Year-Round Federal Pell Grant students.

(a) In general.—Section 401(b) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1070a(b)), as amended by section 4, is further amended by adding at the end the following:

“(7) Year-Round Federal Pell Grant students.—

“(A) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of this subsection, the Secretary shall award, to an eligible student who has received a Federal Pell Grant for an award year and is enrolled in a program of study for 1 or more additional payment periods during the same award year that are not otherwise covered by the student's Federal Pell Grant, an additional Federal Pell Grant for the additional payment periods.

“(B) AMOUNTS.—In the case of a student receiving more than one Federal Pell Grant in a single award year under subparagraph (A), the total amount of the Federal Pell Grants awarded to such student for the award year may exceed the total maximum Federal Pell Grant for such award year, as calculated under clauses (i) and (ii) of paragraph (2)(A).

“(C) INCLUSION IN DURATION LIMIT.—Any period of study covered by a Federal Pell Grant awarded under subparagraph (A) shall be included in determining a student's duration limit under subsection (c)(5).

“(8) Crossover period.—In any case where an eligible student is receiving a Federal Pell Grant for a payment period that spans 2 award years, the Secretary shall allow the eligible institution in which the student is enrolled to determine the award year to which the additional period shall be assigned.”.

(b) Effective date.—The amendment made by subsection (a) shall take effect on July 1, 2014.