Rep. Carbajal Unveils Updated Bill to Expand Pell Grant, Improve College Affordability

Carbajal joined by UCSB, Cal Poly students to tout bill that would double maximum Pell award

Today, Congressman Salud Carbajal announced updated legislation to expand the Pell Grant and improve college affordability for students across California and the U.S. alongside students and staff from University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly).

Congressman Carbajal’s Degrees Not Debt Act would double the maximum Pell Grant award to $13,800 a year, decreasing the amount of burdensome student loan debt for individuals pursuing higher education.

“American college students owe nearly $2 trillion in student loans, and the tools that we have to prevent students from taking on additional debt to complete their education aren’t keeping up with the rising costs of higher education-even at our public colleges and universities,” said Congressman Carbajal. “As someone who was the first in his family to graduate college and someone who relied on Pell and other federal aid to earn that degree, I know it’s unacceptable that the value of these programs have eroded in recent years. The numbers don’t lie: Pell needs a dramatic overhaul. That’s why I’ve renewed my push to double the maximum Pell Grant award to improve Pell’s ability to cover the costs of a modern education, and I’m pleased to have universal support from the Central Coast’s student organizations as well as many of our colleges and universities.”

Congressman Carbajal was joined by Central Coast students to share their own experiences with the Pell Grant and their support for the legislation.

“The Pell Grant… enabled me to get myself back in school. The Pell Grant gave me more time to focus on school and spend a little more time with my kids. It also helped me put gas in my car…purchase more nutritious groceries, and buy books and supplies I needed for school,” said Angela Bradley, a single mother and sociology major at UC Santa Barbara. “Even with the help of the Pell Grant, I had to use my credit cards to supplement the other needs of my family. If the Pell Grant were doubled the amount that it is today, it would enable me to get through school with less stress, less debt, and more time to earn my degree in a timely manner…it could also offset the rising cost of food and gasoline.”

“As a first-generation college student…the Pell Grant has greatly helped me achieve my goals. Thanks to the federal Pell Grant…[my] loans were definitely diminished, which helped me and my mom and all our worries,” said Sara Steichen, a political science major graduating this year from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “With that being said, the current amount that the Pell Grant has to offer does not fully cover all my tuition and dorm costs…if the federal Pell Grant had been doubled before I attended Cal Poly, I would be able to spend next year solely prioritizing my career goals. College has become increasingly accessible thanks to various programs like the Pell Grant, but there is still so much more work that can be done to make college education accessible to people across various socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Carbajal was also joined by Saúl Quiroz, Director of the UCSB Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.

The Degrees Not Debt Act has the endorsement of the Associated Students of UC Santa Barbara, and the Cal State Student Association, as well as the University of California system, the California State University system, Allan Hancock College, Cuesta College, and Santa Barbara City College.

Last year, student loan debt in the U.S. totaled more than $1.7 trillion–nearly twice the total credit card debt held by Americans. Californians hold the largest amount of student loan debt of any state, $141 billion, with an average student loan debt of $37,000 per borrower.

Over seven million students across the county rely on Pell Grant to cover the costs of their higher education. But the current maximum Pell Grant award, $6,895, only covers about one-third of the average tuition at a public four-year college.

Carbajal’s legislation, which he has introduced previously to increase the Pell Grant, was revised this year to double the current level of Pell Grants available.

Congressman Carbajal’s vote in the House earlier this year helped raise the maximum Pell award from $6,495 to $6,895 for the 2022-2023 award year.

Congressman Carbajal joined more than 100 Democrats in Congress in March in a letter urging President Joe Biden to extend the moratorium on student loan payments until December and to provide meaningful student debt cancellation.

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