Statement: American Families Plan’s 20 percent increase in Pell Grants is a good, but incomplete, step

Biden announcement falls short of campaign pledge

Press Release |

-For Immediate Release-

For More Information:
Zack Szlezinger, Higher Education Associate, [email protected], 914-327-5932 
Josh Chetwynd, Communications Manager, [email protected], 303, 573-5558

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration released its $1.8 trillion American Families Plan Wednesday with investments ranging from paid family leave and childcare to higher education. One key element to the plan is an $85 billion increase to the Pell Grant, a need-based financial aid program for low and middle income students. The new funding would increase the maximum award that a student can receive by $1,400. This is a 20 percent increase to the Pell Grant, which, at its current level, covers 28 percent of an average four-year college tuition.

PIRG Higher Education Associate Zack Szlezinger issued the following statement in response:

“The Biden administration has taken strong actions to invest in students in his first 100 days in office, and we applaud the president’s move to increase the Pell Grant. This will allow millions of students to go to college with less of a reliance on student loans. However, the $1,400 increase to the maximum Pell Grant still falls short of President Biden’s campaign promise to double these grant allotments. 

“Seven million students rely on Pell Grants. This used to be a huge lifeline because it once covered more than three-quarters of the average four-year college tuition. But now, even with a 20 percent increase, these grants will only cover just over a third of costs. This is just not enough for many Pell recipients to stay in school without struggling to pay for their tuition and fees as well as other expenses, such as housing, food and textbooks. Simply put, this program must keep up with the times. To make college affordable and accessible for all students, regardless of their families’ income, we urge the administration and Congress to make this announcement just a building block on the way to doubling Pell grants.”


The Student PIRGs is a network of student run and student funded organizations that work with professional staff at colleges and universities to make sure our peers have the skills, opportunities and training they need to create a better, more sustainable future for all of us. Our chapters on over 35 campuses provide the training, professional support and resources students need to tackle climate change, protect public health, revitalize our democracy, feed the hungry and more. For nearly 50 years we’ve helped students to get organized, mobilized and energized so they can continue to be on the cutting edge of positive change.