Congressman Joyce Introduces Bill to Increase College Success Rate for Low-Income Students

Sep 14, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Dave Joyce (OH-14) and Derek Kilmer (WA-06) introduced the Pell Plus Act to promote college completion by establishing partnerships between colleges and universities to provide a Pell Grant bonus to low-income students in their third and fourth years on a path to on-time graduation.

“Today, just 50% of Pell Grant recipients manage to successfully graduate, and the vast majority of them only do so after six years of study,” said Congressman Joyce. “The Pell Plus Act would ensure more low-income Americans can successfully secure their college degree, opening doors to a lifetime of opportunity. In turn, these students can contribute back to their communities and achieve financial stability.”

“Education is the door to economic opportunity, and for a lot of families, financial aid programs are the key to that door,” said Rep. Kilmer. “Pell Grants are particularly important for middle-class families, but even with that vital support, students and their families often end up saddled with debt. The Pell Plus program we’re proposing will help students complete their college degree on time, provide more financial aid, and lower their debt burden. That’s a win for students, a win for educational institutions, and a win for local employers who are hungry for workers.”


Created in 1965, Pell Grants were established to helpundergraduates from low-income families cover the cost of a college education. Since its inception, Pell Grants have assisted millions of Americans in securing a college education who would otherwise not be able to afford to do so simply because of their family’s financial background. As the cost of college continues to rise, many low-income recipients of the Pell Grant struggle to meet the financial obligations associated with a college degree. Today, just 50% of Pell Grant recipients manage to successfully graduate, and the vast majority of them do so after six years of study. That’s where the Pell Plus Act comes in – a bipartisan initiative to responsibly increase a student’s Pell Grant in order to provide them with the financial boost they need to graduate within four years. 

Statement from NAICU President Barbara K. Mistick, D.M. on the Pell Plus Act proposal:

“We applaud Reps. Joyce and Kilmer for introducing the Pell Plus Act of 2023. This legislation is a creative approach to how we might encourage higher education institutions, students, and the federal government to partner together toward improving on-time college completion and reduce student debt.

“The Pell Grant is the foundation of federal student aid and remains the fairest and most efficient way to help lower-income and first-generation students access and complete college and enter the workforce. However, the program could be adjusted to encourage more students to complete and to complete on-time.

“Under the current Pell Grant system, students are eligible for more Pell Grant assistance the longer they take to complete their degree. This also means that students who take longer than four years to complete their studies accrue more overall student debt due to their extended enrollment. In fact, the difference in debt burdens for students who graduate in six years instead of four is nearly 20 percent.

“This Pell Plus proposal addresses student debt on the front end by reducing the need to take out additional student loans and incentivizing on-time completion. At the back end the proposal lowers graduates’ total debt. It increases institutional “skin in the game” and continues the federal commitment to investing in our nation’s neediest students.

“NAICU looks forward to working with Reps. Kilmer and Joyce to perfect this legislation as it moves through the legislative process and, ultimately, strengthens access and affordability for those who need it the most.”

Read the full text of the bill here.

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