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U.S. Department of Education Moves Quickly to Implement Sen. Murray’s Recommendation to Restore Pell Grant Eligibility to Students Impacted by Closed Schools

Back in October, Murray identified a provision in the Higher Education Act giving the Department existing legal authority to restore Pell Grant eligibility to students impacted by the closures of Corinthian Colleges, ITT Tech, and other closed schools


The Department agreed with Murray’s recommendation and began working to restore eligibility to students—LINK


*Today the Department announced the process to help ensure full restoration of Pell Grant eligibility to all eligible students now and in the future*LINK


More on Murray’s efforts in Washington Post: “Feds will restore grant funding for thousands of students burned by for-profit college closures”—LINK


(Washington, D.C) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, applauded the U.S. Department of Education’s efforts to move forward quickly with a process to restore Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled at the time Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute abruptly closed, as well as countless other students that were unable to complete their programs at schools that have shut down.


Senator Murray sent a letter to Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. on October 5, 2016 identifying existing legal authority by the Department to allow students to access additional Pell Grants under a provision in the Higher Education Act (HEA) that governs students’ eligibility for additional federal student aid when their school closes. The Department previously said that it did not have the authority to restore any of these semesters of Pell Grant eligibility when a school closes. On October 28, 2016, the Department announced that it had agreed to apply this new legal interpretation to the provision in the HEA and began working immediately to restore Pell Grant eligibility to students for the period of time they attended colleges or career schools that have closed down.  


This successful recommendation by Senator Murray, and today’s notice of implementation by the Department, are huge steps forward in efforts to provide relief to students in higher education impacted—and, in many cases, victimized—by closed schools.


“I commend the Department of Education for taking quick action on my recommendation to help students impacted by closed schools remain eligible for Pell Grant assistance. This is a crucial step that will help us protect countless students moving forward,” said Senator Patty Murray. “While we cannot give students back the time they spent at these institutions, I remain hopeful that by doing everything possible to make sure they are getting the relief they deserve, they will be able to move past this challenge and continue on their path to higher education and success.”


As identified in an Electronic Announcement posted today, the Department said: “Following a number of recent cases of closed schools, the Department has determined it has the authority to restore semesters of Pell Grant eligibility for Pell Grant recipients who were unable to complete their course of study due to the closing of a school. Eligible students will include those Pell Grant recipients who were enrolled during either the award year in which the school closed or during the immediately prior award year, and who did not complete their course of study at that school. The policy will restore eligibility equivalent to all of the semesters that an eligible student attended the school that closed… We thank the financial aid community for their patience as we work to ensure that students eligible for a Federal Pell Grant receive the funds for which they are entitled so they can successfully complete their postsecondary education.”


More on today’s announcement by the Department HERE.


Background on HEA provision: 


The provision under the HEA that grants authority to restore Pell Grant eligibility was inserted from the 1992 amendments to the law and reads as follows:


Sec. 437: “(3) 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.”


The title referenced in this provision refers to all of title IV, which governs all federal student loans and the majority of grants to students, including the Pell Grant program.