Reps. Schrier, Kuster, Burchett, Upton, and Rouda Introduce Bipartisan Expanding Access to Graduate Education Act

June 20, 2019
Press Release

(Washington, DC) – Today, Representatives Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA), Annie Kuster (D-NH), Tim Burchett (R-TN), Fred Upton (R-MI), and Harley Rouda (D-CA) introduced H.R. 3334, the Expanding Access to Graduate Education Act, which would allow students who received a Pell Grant during their undergraduate education to utilize their remaining Pell eligibility towards their first graduate degree. Under current federal law, individuals are prohibited from using Pell grants for their graduate degree.

“In today’s changing economy, many students require training beyond an undergraduate education. If students have not exhausted their undergraduate financial aid, they should be able to put what remains toward a post-secondary professional program. As a doctor, I am well-aware that communities benefit when our physicians come from diverse backgrounds,” said Rep. Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA). “Similarly, medical schools and fellow students would benefit from colleagues who bring different lived experiences to the bedside and might not otherwise be able to afford that education. This is a win-win-win proposal — students, schools, and communities.”

"As occupations requiring a master's degree continue to grow, we need to make sure those who wish to fill these jobs are not prevented from doing so because of the high cost of graduate school," said Rep. Annie Kuster. "This legislation will help remove some of the barriers that many Americans face in their pursuit of post-graduate opportunities, reduce student debt, and ensure workers have the skills they need to help fill the jobs of the future -- this bill is a win-win for students and our economy."

“We need to encourage folks any time we can to further their education, and if Pell Grant recipients don’t use all their award it just makes sense to let them use it for graduate school,” said Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN).

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

“Pell grant eligible students have shown time and time again they are worth the investment,” said Rep. Harley Rouda (D-CA). “The Expanding Access to Graduate Education Act allows these students to continue their studies and contribute even more to their communities and our economy."

“Graduate degree holders have a critical role to play in New Hampshire's high-tech, high-skilled economy, and it is important that all qualified students have access to these educational, and ultimately career, opportunities. We are grateful to Rep. Kuster for taking the lead on this issue to help make graduate education more affordable and accessible, particularly for traditionally underserved populations,” said Cari Moorhead, Dean of the University of New Hampshire Graduate School.  “Pell grants are a vital resource for ensuring college access for students across New Hampshire.  In addition to strengthening and adequately funding the existing program, we believe this modernization will help to meet the demands of the 21st Century workforce.”

“Expanding Pell to graduate degrees will allow all students to enhance their learning and bring those skills to the workplace,” said Marcia Schmidt Blaine, Executive Director of Government Relations and Special Projects for the President at Plymouth State University. “Investing in low-income and historically underrepresented individuals will benefit not only the students but also their families and communities.”

"CGS thanks the bipartisan champions of this legislation, which upholds the primary mission of the Pell Grant program to help ensure that individuals with exceptional financial need are able to pursue higher levels of education," said Suzanne T. Ortega, President of the Council of Graduate Schools. "Our nation is becoming increasingly diverse, and it is imperative that our graduate student population reflects that diversity by including more students from low-income and underrepresented communities."

By 2020, over six million jobs in the United States will require a graduate degree, and occupations requiring a master’s or doctoral degree at entry level are projected to be among the fastest growing over the next decade. However, many graduate students have few options outside of loans as a means of financing their education. The Expanding Access to Graduate Education Act would continue Pell’s initial purpose of providing access to higher education for low-income individuals, while modernizing it to meet the demands of the current workforce.

The full text of H.R. 3334 can be found here.