Low-income students, including those attending Cal State San Bernardino, who rely on scholarships and federal grants to pay for college received a much needed boost when Congress passed a spending bill signed into law recently that included $22.5 billion for funding Pell Grants, said Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-San Bernardino).
The Pell Grant funding provides money for financially needy students and takes effect in the 2017-2018 school year, reinstating year-round (also known as summer) Pell Grants to students. Aguilar called it “a victory for San Bernardino County families and families and communities like ours across this nation,” during a news conference at the CSUSB campus on May 12.
Year-round Pell Grants were previously available from July 2009 to June 2011, but were suspended due to budgetary concerns.
The Pell Grant funding has special meaning for Aguilar, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee. He and his brother were the first in their family to attend college and would not have been able to enroll without the federal funding.
“I understand the stress and struggle that comes with going to college,” Aguilar said. “Unfortunately, students today are fighting the same battles that I fought over a decade ago. And that’s just not right. We should be making it easier for our young people to go to college.”
He added that bipartisan passage of the bill proves that both sides can work together to pass meaningful legislation.
CSUSB President Tomás D. Morales said the increased federal funding will play a vital role at the university; 65 percent of its enrolled undergraduates receive Pell Grants. Morales himself received Pell Grants as a college student, which at the time were known as Basic Education Opportunity Grants.
Morales said the Inland Action Committee in San Bernardino and the Monday Morning group in Riverside had identified the funding of year-round Pell Grants as one of their top priorities, and worked closely with federal officials.
The funding will have “a very, very significant impact on our students,” Morales said. “It will allow our students to be supported year-round and make progress toward their degree. It will increase the number of students who attend summer school and increase the number of students who study abroad.”
It is estimated that about 2,000 CSUSB students will take advantage of summer studies with the year-round Pell Grant availability and enable them to complete their degrees sooner, which in turn will lower their student debt. And as more students complete their degrees sooner, CSUSB will be able to admit more qualified Inland Empire students. At present, nearly 90 percent of the university’s student body consists of students who live in the inland region.
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For more information on Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Strategic Communication at (909) 537-5007 and visit news.csusb.edu.