The presidents of the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium colleges, including Hamilton President David Wippman, sent a joint letter on Aug. 19 to the U.S. Congress members representing their districts, asking them to support doubling the Pell grant for qualified students.

The letter was sent to Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Representatives Paul Tonko (NY-20), Elise Stefanik (NY-21), Claudia Tenney (NY-22), and Tom Reed (NY-23). It reads:

We, the presidents of the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium member institutions, write to request your support for doubling the Pell Grant through the budget reconciliation process this fall and before the program’s 50th anniversary in June 2022. Doubling the Pell Grant is of vital importance to our communities, state, and nation, for several reasons.

First, Pell Grants benefit students from all backgrounds and all corners of New York State. Nearly 60 percent of Black students; half of Indigenous American students; nearly half of Latino students; and 30 percent of White students use Pell Grants to help pay for college. Doubling Pell funding is the single most important step Congress can take now to make college more accessible and affordable for low-income and first-generation students.

Doubling Pell will remove financial barriers to higher education not only for current Pell recipients, but also for an increased pool of eligible, working-class students, reducing levels of student debt substantially. Increased Pell Grants will allow individual students to attend the institution that best fits their needs and aspirations, whether that is a community college, a public university, or a private liberal-arts college such as our institutions.

Higher education plays a critical role in preparing individuals to thrive in the new economy that is developing as a result of the pandemic. Doubling Pell Grants will accelerate the return to economic stability for the individuals who receive this assistance and thereby stimulate economic recovery in communities throughout the state. 

This investment will pay off not just for recipients but for our nation as well. Studies have shown that the income levels for bachelor’s degree recipients are 40 percent higher than those of individuals who enter the workforce with a high school degree. The tax revenue from college graduates aided by higher Pell awards means the money spent to increase the Pell Grant maximum is returned to government coffers within a decade - a stunning indicator that this investment works both for individuals and for taxpayers.

The Pell Grant program has been enormously successful, helping more than 100 million students from low- and middle-income households pursue their dreams and achieve their goals in higher education – including many members of Congress and their staff. We ask you to support the increase in Pell Grant funding, and we thank you in advance for your consideration.

The letter was signed by: Brian W. Casey, Colgate University; David Wippman, Hamilton College; Joyce P. Jacobsen, Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Kathryn A. Morris, St. Lawrence University; Marc C. Conner, Skidmore College; and David R. Harris, Union College.

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