Senator Stabenow Introduces Legislation to Make College a Reality for Disadvantaged Students

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow today introduced legislation to make sure that students who work hard to get into college can enroll regardless of their financial circumstances. The Early Pell Promise Act will dedicate two years of Pell Grants to qualifying middle school students. That funding will be available upon graduation to help pay for tuition at a college or university. Modeled after the successful Kalamazoo Promise, this legislation will give students and their families the opportunity and information they need to earn a college degree.

"Too many young people in Michigan aren't aware of the resources available to help them find the right college, let alone how to make it a reality," Senator Stabenow said. "Every child in America, no matter their financial situation, should know that if they work hard, study hard, and get good grades, the opportunity to attend college will be available after high school."

"This bill provides an important change to students' eligibility for Pell Grants by making a commitment of funding to them while they are still in the 8th grade, rather than having to wait until late in their senior year of high school," said Don Heller, Dean of MSU's College of Education. "This early commitment will provide an incentive for students to take the steps required to prepare them for college throughout all four years of high school, including preparing themselves academically. I hope that this bill will receive broad support in the Senate."

This legislation is inspired by the Kalamazoo Promise, created in 2005, which provides hope and inspiration to students who have attended Kalamazoo Public Schools by paying for their college tuition at any of Michigan's state colleges or universities. Senator Stabenow's Early Pell Promise Act was also inspired by Vice President Biden's Early Federal Pell Grant Commitment Demonstration Act, which was authorized in the Higher Education Opportunity Act in 2008.

Numerous studies, including one conducted by the Institute For College Access and Success, show that the earlier students are given information about financial aid options and benefits of post-secondary education, the more likely they are to finish high school and go to college. This bill would provide college financial aid information to students and their families in 8th grade based on enrollment in the National School Lunch Program. The bill also provides a commitment to these students that if they work hard and graduate they will receive the maximum Pell grant award for their first two years of college.

The Early Pell Promise Act has been endorsed by the National Education Association, ED Trust, American Association of Community Colleges, and Michigan College Access Network.