Public Affairs

Debt Deal Preserves Pell Grants for California State University Students

August 4, 2011

More than 140,000 California State University students will be able to receive Pell Awards of up to $5,550 following President Obama's signing of a new debt ceiling bill on Tuesday, August 2.  The new debt measure includes funding to protect Pell Grants and provides specific protection in the discretionary budget to ensure that there will be sufficient funding for Pell without undermining other critical investments.

The Budget Control Act (S 365) sets aside $17 billion to sustain the need-based Pell Grant program over the next two fiscal years with $10 billion for fiscal year 2012 and $7 billion for fiscal year 2013.  CSU is the largest recipient of Pell Grants in the country, and receives approximately $550 million each year in Pell awards for its students.

Over the past several months, Congressional leaders, along with Obama administration officials and higher education associations, have considered options to cut down the size and scope of the Pell program.  Several alternatives could have been especially detrimental to CSU students, such as changing the definition of "full-time" students from the current 12 units to 15 units, which would have reduced by 25 percent grants for thousands of CSU students. 

Led by Chancellor Charles B. Reed, CSU leaders advocated strongly against such proposals, making the case for full Pell preservation both within the higher education community and with policymakers on the Hill and in the Obama administration.  In meetings, correspondences and briefings, they stressed the potentially devastating impact proposed cuts would have on working, first-generation and underrepresented minority students. 

In March, Chancellor Reed, trustees, campus presidents and student leaders participated in a Hill Day event, meeting with Senator Tom Harkin, the chair of the Senate's education funding and policy committees.  In July, Fresno State President John Welty joined presidents and chancellors from seven other institutions and Senators Al Franken and Ben Cardin in Washington, D.C. at a press event highlighting the need to protect full funding of Pell Grants. 

For more information on Federal Pell Grants, please visit