Access and affordability have always been at the heart of Southern’s mission – a point driven home by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, at a press conference held at Buley Library on Mon., Jan. 30, that celebrated a six percent increase to the federal Pell Grant.
According to DeLauro, 44,000 students across Connecticut receive federal Pell Grants to help support college costs. At Southern, approximately 43 percent of all undergraduate students receive Pell support.
“Every young person in America should have the opportunity to get a good education without getting trapped into a lifetime of student loan debt,” DeLauro said.
The increase in funding would come as part of a spending bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate that provides $24.6 billion for federal student aid programs, an increase of $34 million above the 2022 federal spending bill enacted level.
This amount includes a $500 increase in the maximum Pell Grant, boosting the maximum aid per student from $6,895 to $7,395, a 6 percent increase.
Named for Sen. Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, the program’s chief sponsor, Federal Pell Grants are awarded only to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need and have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree. The federal Pell Grant program is the largest grant program offered by the Department of Education to undergraduate students, and has been awarding grants since the 1973-1974 school year.
Wilson Valois, senior communication major and first-generation student, said the Pell Grant allowed him to feel comfortable paying for a college education.
“Providing greater access to education through the increase in Pell Grant funding is one small step towards giving students the opportunity to unlock their true potential, without having to worry about financial barriers,” said Valois.
Siddhi Suresh, senior computer science major, said college always made her family nervous because of the financial liabilities, cost of tuition and other expenses: the Pell Grant offered relief.
“The Pell Grant allowed me to continue my education without adding an additional financial burden on my family,” said Suresh. “I can proudly say I am supporting myself through college and have been able to reach this level of independence because of receiving the Federal Pell Grant.”
Southern President Joe Bertolino emceed the event and also underscored the importance of the Pell Grant program, saying that it was “a welcome injection of support at a time when many students and their families are struggling to make ends meet in the wake of the pandemic.”
“It’s a fact that Pell-eligible and other low-income students are more likely to have to work more hours while attending college to afford their education. They may struggle with basic needs such as housing, food and transportation,” said President Bertolino. “As a university committed to social justice, Southern has committed resources to assist — providing basic needs, social, mental health, and academic support. The needs in these areas are growing, and such wrap-around services are critical to support students’ health and well being.”