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College Asks Staff to Join Campaign to Protect Pell

Save Pell
Student Ambassadors urged 241 students to sign an online Save Pell petition during the Rock the Vote rally last September. The one-day blitz generated more than 1,000 emails to Pennsylvania’s congressional delegates in support of Pell.

Changes made last year to the Pell Grant appeared to have generated billions in savings this year, while eliminating tens of thousands of students from the program, according to a new report.

At the beginning of this fiscal year, officials projected a $5.7 billion shortfall in the federal student aid program for 2014. Early this month, the Congressional Budget Office announced the program is likely to end the 2013 fiscal year with a $9.2 billion surplus.

While it is unclear how the Pell modifications transformed the shortfall into a surplus, officials say rule tightening and cutbacks contributed to the savings. Last July, Congress ended subsidized loans for graduate students, eliminated the year-round Pell and the ability to benefit test. It also changed eligibility guidelines and limited Pell Grant awards to 12 semesters over a lifetime.

The College’s 2013 Stand Up for Pell campaign responds to these worrisome developments. This spring, student leaders will encourage their peers to track their financial aid status closely and learn how to keep from running afoul of the new guidelines. The College, elected officials and business leaders will push a legislative agenda to support these issues. Advocating for the return of the year-round Pell and for restoration of grants for students meeting the ability to benefit test are top priorities, he says.

“We as a College have to be leaders in promoting a strong Pell for our students,” President Curtis says. “You will hear me talk about Pell incessantly. It makes a huge difference.”

Roughly 16,000 current students at the College receive Pell benefits.

Community College of Philadelphia has led advocacy efforts in Washington by working closely with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) to fend off massive cuts to Pell. The harshest proposals—such as elimination of Pell Grants for part-time students—were avoided, but not without compromise.

On Feb. 11, Dr. Curtis and Lynette Brown-Sow represented the College along with Matthew Bergheiser, chairman of the Board of Trustees, at the ACCT National Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C., where Pell’s status was on the agenda. The College furnished “Stand up for Pell” buttons for conference attendees and met with members of the U.S. Congress to discuss Pell changes, workforce development and other issues affecting our students.

In addition, the College is:

  • Mobilizing elected officials by writing their offices and providing updates and talking points about Pell
  • Preparing press packets for national news media to focus attention on financial aid issues
  • Engaging students, faculty and staff in efforts to secure public funding for the College on Lobby Day in Harrisburg on April 9. Even on Lobby Day, we will be encouraging state elected officials to Stand Up for Pell.

Join us as we launch this campaign to protect college access. Sign on to Save Pell and wear our “Stand Up for Pell” button. Buttons are available in Room M2-5 or in the Student Leadership and Involvement Center, Room S1-12.