Congresswomen Hayes, Scanlon, McBath & Senator Warren Introduce Legislation Restoring Pell Grant Eligibilty To Victims Of Predatory For-Profit Colleges

September 12, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswomen Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), and Lucy McBath (GA-06) introduced H.R. 4298, the Pell Grant Restoration Act. This critical legislation would amend Title IV of the Higher Education Act to restore students’ Pell Grant eligibility for any period of time during which they would have qualified for loan forgiveness due to school closure or institutional fraud or misconduct. A companion measure was introduced in the Senate by Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA).

Under existing federal law, all students are entitled to 12 semesters of Pell Grant eligibility. Students deceived into attending for-profit colleges, who used Pell Grants to do so, now find themselves in the position of trying to attain an actual education without Pell Grant assistance.

This results in a situation where students are stuck with mounds of debt and no means to acquire the education necessary to secure gainful employment. In Connecticut, there are more than 1,000 students that have been defrauded by predatory colleges and could qualify for Pell Grant restoration. 

Rep. Hayes said: “As a Pell Grant recipient, I know just how vital a lifeline it can be in helping students on their path towards a degree. We should be working to help students defrauded by for-profit colleges, not trapping them without a usable degree and no means to pay. One way to do that is to restore Pell Grant eligibility to the victims of predatory for-profit colleges. I thank Senator Warren and all my colleagues for joining me in advocating to fix this deep injustice.

Sen. Warren said: “Students who get cheated by a predatory, for-profit college should not lose their Pell Grant eligibility. I’m glad to reintroduce this bill with Representatives Hayes, Scanlon, and McBath because our government should not be punishing students for getting scammed.”

Assistant Speaker Luján said: “It is despicable that students who attended for-profit colleges risk losing crucial Pell Grant funding if those institutions close due to institutional fraud or misconduct. Students depend on this aid to afford higher education and pursue their goals, and it’s critical that Pell Grant eligibility is restored for these students. I’m proud to co-sponsor this critical legislation that will protect our students.”

Rep. Scanlon said: “We should not be punishing students who fall victim to fraud and abuse by predatory colleges, or who have the rug pulled out from under them when their school closes. By restoring Pell eligibility for students who otherwise qualify through loan forgiveness because of fraud or closure, we’re ensuring students get a fair shot at attaining a higher education credential. I am proud to co-lead this legislation and commend Rep. Hayes for her leadership in restoring the rights of America’s students.”

Rep. McBath said: “So many of our students work hard every day to earn an education and chase after their dreams. Our children should not be punished and lose their Pell Grant eligibility for the actions of fraudulent colleges. Hard working Americans from every community deserve a fair shot at a college education.” 

Rep. Langevin said: “Students who have been defrauded by for-profit colleges have suffered enough without also losing their Pell Grant eligibility. It is only right that we help students of predatory colleges by restoring their full Pell Grant eligibility as they pursue their degrees. I commend Congresswomen Hayes and Senator Warren for leading this important legislation.”

Rep. Meng said: “Pell Grants provide critical funds for students who attend college to earn an education to fulfill their professional aspirations. Unfortunately, many students fall victim to for-profit colleges and take on enormous amounts of debt to achieve their dreams. When these schools close because of institutional fraud or misconduct, many students who took out loans and grants—including Pell Grants—have difficulty with managing their student debt and resuming their studies. I’m thankful to Representatives Hayes, Scanlon, and McBath and Senator Warren for their leadership in introducing the Pell Grant Restoration Act. No one should be denied their education or a chance to pursue a degree because of these predatory institutions.”

Rep. DelBene said: “With the ever-rising costs of higher education, many students need Pell Grants to obtain the necessary qualifications to succeed in their chosen professions. We cannot allow students to shoulder the consequences of the shameful practices used by for-profit colleges, like what happened in my home state of Washington. I thank Reps. Hayes, Scanlon, and McBath for their leadership on this legislation.”

Rep. Sablan said: “Without a four-year college in the Mariana Islands, those who want a degree often turn to on-line schools, where they can be at risk of being defrauded. Legislation we are introducing today means those students will be able to recover and continue to pursue their educational goal.”

Rep. Lee said: “Education is supposed to be a path to a better life – but for far too many, that path is blocked by predatory for-profit colleges, especially communities of color. Pell Grants were created to help everyone have a fair shot at higher education, and I’m glad to work with my colleagues in Congress on this crucial bill to make sure that chance is restored for students preyed on by for-profit institutions. No student should be denied an education because of false promises or a profit motive.”

Rep. Pocan said: “Pell Grants offer students in need the opportunity to build brighter futures through higher education opportunities they may not otherwise be able to afford. It is important that we do everything we can to protect that pipeline to a better future. No student should ever be penalized for the actions of their college or university, especially the most financially vulnerable, that is why I’m proud to stand with Representatives Hayes, Scanlon, and McBath and Senator Warren to restore Pell Grant eligibility for students who have previously been defrauded by the institutions they attended.”

Rep. Moore said: “For-profit colleges target low-income people, who often rely on Pell Grants and other types of financial aid. Students who become victims of predatory colleges shouldn’t face further punishment by being denied access to Pell Grants. Restoring Pell Grant eligibility allows these students to continue pursuing an education with the opportunity for crucial financial support.”

Every year, more than $30 billion in Pell Grants is distributed to over 7 million students across the country, providing desperately needed aid for students seeking to afford the skyrocketing cost of higher education. Since the collapse of for-profit giants Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute, the Department of Education has received over 240,000 applications for Borrower Defense, meaning thousands of students in every state are potentially eligible for Pell Grant restoration.

The Pell Grant Restoration Act is cosponsored by Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (NM-03) and Representatives Jim Langevin (RI-02), Grace Meng (NY-06), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (MP-AL), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Mark Pocan (WI-02), and Gwen Moore (WI-04). The bill has been endorsed by the National Education Association and the Connecticut Education Association.

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*A copy of the bill can be seen here: https://hayes.house.gov/sites/hayes.house.gov/files/wysiwyg_uploaded/HAYECT_013_xml.pdf

Rep. Jahana Hayes has been a public school teacher in Connecticut for more than 15 years and was recognized in 2016 as the National Teacher of the Year. Currently serving her first term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Hayes sits on the Committees on Education & Labor and Agriculture and proudly represents Connecticut’s 5th District.