Upton’s bipartisan bill would extend Pell Grant awards to graduate degrees

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) is cosponsoring bipartisan legislation to expand access to graduate education by amending the Federal Pell Grant program to include post-baccalaureate study.

“The bottom line is this legislation will help make a graduate degree more affordable for the nearly 5,000 graduate students who attend Western Michigan University and the millions of graduate students across the country,” the congressman said.

Rep. Upton on June 19 introduced the Expanding Access to Graduate Education Act of 2019, H.R. 3334, with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH) to allow low-income students who received a Pell Grant during their undergraduate education to utilize any remaining funds toward their first graduate degree.

The U.S. Department of Education says that current law prohibits the use of Federal Pell Grants for graduate degrees. They most often are awarded only to undergraduate students “who display exceptional financial need” and have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate or professional degree. And unlike a loan, a Federal Pell Grant does not have to be repaid, except under certain circumstances.

More than six million jobs in the United States will require a graduate degree by 2020, according to the lawmaker’s office, which noted that many graduate students lack options outside of loans to finance a master’s degree or doctorate.

“Countless good-paying jobs today require a graduate degree, but earning one can be expensive, especially after already paying for an undergraduate degree,” said Rep. Upton. “The bipartisan legislation we introduced today would help reduce the debt burden of these students.”

H.R. 3334 has been referred for consideration to the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee.