10.06.16

HIGHER ED: Sen. Murray Urges Dept. of Education to Use Authority to Restore Pell Grant Eligibility to Students Impacted by Closures of ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges

In new letter, Sen. Murray, a Pell Grant recipient herself, is calling on the Dept. of Education to restore Pell Grant eligibility to students who attended these “colleges of dubious educational quality”

 

Pell Grant recipients have restrictive limits on total number of semesters they can receive support—as a result, students who used Pell Grants to attend ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges may have exhausted their eligibility and may be ineligible for further support

  

Sen. Murray believes a provision from the Higher Education Act (HEA) may give the Dept. of Education authority to restore Pell Grant eligibility to these students

 

Sen. Murray: “We cannot give students back the time they spent at institutions that closed, but you can ensure they have the resources they need to fulfill their dreams and continue their education elsewhere”

 

Over 50,000 total students, including 750 in Washington state, have been impacted by the closures of ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges

 

(Washington, D.C) – Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Education (“the Department”) to consider using a provision of the Higher Education Act (HEA) to restore Pell Grant eligibility to low-income students impacted by the closures of ITT Technical Institute (“ITT Tech”) and Corinthian Colleges. Because Pell Grant recipients have restrictive limits on the total number of semesters they can receive support through the program, many of the students who used Pell Grants to attend ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges may have exhausted their eligibility and may therefore be ineligible for sufficient support to finish their education at a new school.

 

“The collapse of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute (“ITT Tech”) continues to have a profound impact on the more than 50,000 students who were left in the lurch after the schools they had invested time and money into suddenly closed…I want to see these students succeed,” wrote Senator Murray. “We must do everything we can to fulfill our promise to Pell Grant recipients so that they remain eligible for grant assistance when events beyond their control lead to a school’s closure…I urge you to review Section 437(c)(3) of the HEA and consider restoring Pell Grant eligibility to those students who attended institutions that closed in the middle of their pursuit of a degree.”

 

Senator Murray is urging the Department to consider using a little-known provision from the HEA that refers to title IV, which is the title that governs all federal student loans and the majority of grants to students, including the Pell Grant program. As a result of this reference to the title, the provision appears to provide the Department with the legal authority to “reset” Pell Grant eligibility for students impacted by closed schools. Senator Murray’s letter encourages the Department to review this provision of the law and consider using it to ensure students have sufficient support to finish their education at a new school.

 

Full text of the letter is HERE and below:  

 

October 5, 2016

 

The Honorable John King

Secretary of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.

Washington, DC 20202

 

Dear Secretary King,

 

The collapse of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute (“ITT Tech”) continues to have a profound impact on the more than 50,000 students who were left in the lurch after the schools they had invested time and money into suddenly closed. Like you, I want to see these students succeed, and I commend the actions you have taken to protect students and taxpayers from further harm by colleges of dubious educational quality. However, despite your efforts, students from schools like Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech who used Pell Grants to finance their education face significant roadblocks to continuing their educational progress. Since 2012, Pell Grant recipients have had restrictive limits on the total number of semesters they can receive support through the program. Many students who used Pell Grants to attend schools that suddenly closed have exhausted their eligibility and therefore are ineligible for sufficient support to finish their education at a new school.

 

As a Pell Grant recipient myself, I know firsthand how this critical financial aid program can transform the lives of low-income students across the country. We must do everything we can to fulfill our promise to Pell Grant recipients so that they remain eligible for grant assistance when events beyond their control lead to a school’s closure. I believe a provision of the Higher Education Act (HEA) may give the Department the statutory authority to restore Pell Grant eligibility to low-income students who were unable to complete a course of study due to the closing of their school. Specifically, section 437(c)(3) of the HEA reads as follows:

 

“ELIGIBILITY FOR ADDITIONAL ASSISTANCE.—The period of a student’s attendance at an institution at which the student was unable to complete a course of study due to the closing of the institution shall not be considered for purposes of calculating the student’s period of eligibility for additional assistance under this title.”

 

This provision refers to title IV, which governs all federal student loans and the majority of grants to students, including the Pell Grant program. By including the reference to the entire title, this provision states that, when a student is enrolled at an institution that closes, the semesters they spent at the closed institution shall not count against their continued eligibility for Pell Grants.

 

I urge you to review section 437(c)(3) of the HEA and consider restoring Pell Grant eligibility to those students who attended institutions that closed in the middle of their pursuit of a degree. We cannot give students back the time they spent at institutions that closed, but you can ensure they have the resources they need to fulfill their dreams and continue their education elsewhere. I strongly advocate that you use this provision of the HEA to do so.

 

Sincerely,

 

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