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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson January 5, 2022

Bill would boost amount of Pell Grants, but not double them

As a presidential candidate in 2020, Joe Biden promised to double the maximum value of Pell Grants, a category of federal assistance for lower-income undergraduate students that, unlike student loans, do not have to be paid back. 

Legislation backed by Biden seeks to increase the size of Pell grants a student can receive, but the increase is short of double.

Much of Biden's human-capital agenda was considered for inclusion in a bill known as the Build Back Better Act. That measure has passed the House and is under consideration in the Senate, but has recently faced opposition.

For the current school year, the maximum annual Pell Grant award is set at $6,495. The House version of Build Back Better would bump up that amount by $550 a year. 

That's an increase of about 8%, not double. And the provision isn't guaranteed to make it into the final version of the bill.

That's because Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. — whose vote would be necessary for passage — has expressed reservations about the scope and nature of the House bill's provisions. This means that the bill that emerges from the Senate will likely look different from the one that passed the House, complicating though not torpedoing its chances of enactment.

While Biden's hope of doubling the size of Pell Grant awards has fallen by the wayside, a bill to increase the maximum award remains alive in the Senate. For now, that's enough to rate this promise In the Works.

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