College students could soon see expanded, more flexible federal financial aid policies if Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Texas, get their way. The pair planned to introduce four pieces of legislation Wednesday in the United States Senate and House that would up the maximum Pell Grant award, let students use it for three semesters and extend access to immigrants, the Hill reported.
"Under the Republican majorities in Congress, Pell Grants are under the constant threat of irresponsible cuts and dismantlement — even though college today is more expensive than ever,” Hirono told the Hill. “Investing in education is one of the smartest investments we can make, and students deserve to know they can count on Pell Grants to help pay for college, regardless of their schedules, work, or family commitments.”
Need-based Pell Grants, which the government gives to more than 8 million low-income students, fluctuate frequently, according to the U.S. education department website. For the school year ending June 30, the most a person could receive was $5,730. Hirono proposed the awards be capped at $9,139 and suggested students be allowed to use their Pell Grants for three semesters instead of two.
Hinojosa planned to push the package's College Options for DREAMers Act, which would enable students who immigrated to the U.S. as children to apply for federal financial aid. Undocumented students are currently only eligible for some state and college aid, but Hinojosa told the Hill the U.S. "must do right" by anyone who wants to better themselves.
Hirono, who was born in Japan, and Hinojosa both supported previous versions of the DREAM Act in 2011. "These DREAMers were brought to our country through no fault of their own, and grew up in our schools and churches," Hirono said in a 2013 statement. "They deserve the opportunity to earn a college degree, start a business and help contribute to our economy."