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Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence

Representing the 14th District of Michigan

U.S. Representative Brenda Lawrence Introduces Legislation to Boost Financial Aid

February 28, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (MI-14) led Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Roe Khanna (D-CA), and Bennie Thompson (D-MS) in introducing the Pell to Grad Act, legislation that aims to increase opportunities for financial assistance and help hardworking students offset rising college costs while also promoting continued education. The Pell to Grad Act would allow more students to access higher education by increasing students’ lifetime Pell Grant eligibility, and by extending Pell Grant eligibility to graduate programs.


“Every student deserves an opportunity to further their education, and too many Michigan students are burdened with prohibitive debt.” In fact, the average debt load for Michigan public university graduates rose by more than $10,000 between 2007-2008 and 2017-2018. Even after adjusting for inflation, it is a 24% increase,” said Rep. Lawrence. “The historic rise in student debt has hindered bright, young graduates from starting businesses, purchasing homes, investing, and starting families. This legislation would help reduce that burden and remove barriers encountered by many Americans in their pursuit of post-graduate opportunities.”

The Pell to Grad Act has been endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association (NEA).


“NEA is proud to support Rep. Lawrence’s Pell to Grad Act. A majority of Pell Grant recipients are our most vulnerable students, including students of color. Often times, completing their undergraduate or graduate degree within 4-5 years is not always the reality. By extending the lifetime eligibility from 12 to 16 semesters, students would be provided proper access toward degree completion and achieving their educational goals,” said Marc Egan, National Education Association, Director of Government Relations.


The Pell to Grad Act would (1) extend students’ lifetime Pell Grant eligibility to 16 semesters from the current 12 semesters and (2) allow students who have received a Pell Grant award during their undergraduate education to utilize their remaining Pell eligibility towards their first graduate degree. Under current law, students’ eligibility for Pell Grants is limited to 12 semesters, and students are prohibited from using Pell Grants for graduate or professional degrees.


The Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students to promote access to postsecondary education. Grant amounts are dependent on the student’s expected family contribution, the cost of attendance, and the student’s enrollment status, among other factors.