Adapting for the Future
The Pell Grant program has undergone expansions to serve more low-income students, while Congress has implemented measures to incentivize on-time completion. These include the creation of year-round Pell Grants, tightening student eligibility measures, and decreasing the total number of semesters a student may receive a grant.
The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) authorized year-round Pell Grants, limited eligibility to 18 full-time semesters or equivalent, and set a new minimum award: Students must qualify for at least five percent of the maximum Pell Grant in order to receive an award. Students qualifying for five to 10 percent of the maximum grant would receive 10 percent.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, known as the economic stimulus bill) provided an additional $17 billion funding to the Pell Grant program and increased the maximum award by $500.
The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA) eliminated the federally guaranteed student loan program (known at FFELP) and savings were redirected to the Pell Grant program, creating a mandatory add-on for all Pell recipients and indexing the maximum Pell Grant to the Consumer Pell Index for five years.
The Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act provided additional funding to fill a shortfall in the Pell program and eliminated summer Pell.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 provided additional funding to the Pell Grant program by making temporary changes to the federal loan program to fund a shortfall. Pell lifetime eligibility was reduced to 12 full-time semesters, and a new minimum award was set. Students must now qualify for at least 10 percent of the maximum Pell Grant to receive an award.