U.S. Secretary of Education joins RI delegation at Salve Regina to celebrate Senator Pell’s legacy
Half a century after Sen. Claiborne Pell helped pass a law known as the Education Amendments Act of 1972, his key provision of that law — now known as Pell Grants — has provided a pathway to paying for higher education for over 80 million students nationwide.
To help commemorate the golden anniversary of Pell Grants and to reflect on Senator Pell’s enduring legacy, Sen. Jack Reed and Dr. Miguel A. Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education, headlined a special program at the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy on Monday, joining Dr. Kelli J. Armstrong, president of Salve Regina, and other featured guests, including Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. David Cicilline.
The event was co-led by the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) and the Rhode Island Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (RIASFAA) and featured panel discussions with Rhode Islanders who are direct beneficiaries of Pell Grants, and who were able to pursue opportunities and afford college, thanks to federal financial aid. Leaders urged federal action to double Pell Grants and ensure the doors of higher education remain open to students for the next fifty years.
Last year, 23,752 Rhode Island students received more than $96.9 million in need-based Pell Grants, and nationwide over 6.35 million American students utilized $26.45 billion in Pell Grant funding to help pay for college. The money does not have to be paid back.
“Pell Grants represent the promise of America,” Dr. Cardona said. “It’s the promise that it shouldn’t matter what race or gender you are, what zip code you grew up in, or where your family came from…if you work hard, you can achieve your dreams. It’s up to all of us to keep the promise of Pell and the promise of America alive for generations to come.”
Sen. Reed, who succeeded Pell in the U.S. Senate, said Pell Grants empower students to uplift themselves, their families, communities and the nation.
“It was a generational change that helped millions of young people become the first in their family to go to college and punch their ticket to the middle-class,” Sen. Reed said. “The Pell Grant is about expanding opportunity through higher education. It is about helping hardworking students afford to pay for college and building for the future.”
Sen. Reed, Sen. Whitehouse and Rep. Cicilline are all cosponsors of the bicameral Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act, which would double the Pell Grants award, index the award to inflation, and make other changes to expand the award for working students and families.
“Senator Pell’s legislation to establish the Pell Grants was revolutionary and changed the landscape of higher education,” Dr. Armstrong said. “By moving funding from institutions to individuals, Pell Grants ensured that low-income students received much-needed resources to help pay for a college education.”