HARRISBURG — June 5, 2020 — State Senators Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny), Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery), John Blake (D-Lackawanna), and Art Haywood (D-Montgomery/Philadelphia touted the $30 million in funding the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus was recently able to secure for higher education grants administered by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Authority (PHEAA).
The funding boost means the maximum award for Pennsylvania State Grants will be $4,525 instead of the $4,123 originally projected by PHEAA. Students are set to receive conditional grant awards in the near future outlining their award for the upcoming academic year.
“The additional $30 million to the PA State Grant program will allow the maximum grant award to increase to the second highest award amount in the history of the program,” said Sen. Fontana, who is also the PHEAA Board Vice Chairman. “This pandemic has fundamentally changed how postsecondary schools operate and continues to create uncertainty for many. This will provide students with a stable source of student aid funding as they decide how to participate in higher education going into the upcoming year.”
Funding for the grant program was set to remain flat from its 2019-20 level, prior to the legislature directing $30 million to PHEAA for state grants. The push to allocate Federal CARES Act funding to higher education grants was a part of the people-focused PA CARES Plan put forth by the caucus.
“Expanding access to higher education should be one of our top priorities as our nation increasingly requires a more educated workforce,” Sen. Hughes said. “I am pleased we were able to direct funds to the grant program in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and look forward to seeing the impact in helping students across our commonwealth. Students may not be able to get summer jobs and their parents may have lost work because of what’s going on in the world. We were able to provide assistance to relieve that pain, which is how we must approach recovery from this crisis in other areas.”
The 2020-21 grant award is the second highest in PHEAA’s history of administering the needs-based higher education grants. In addition to increasing the maximum grant award, PHEAA officials expect to increase the total grant award for the 126,000-plus grant recipients.
“As a member of the PHEAA board, the affordability and accessibility of a quality post-secondary education remains a top priority,” Sen. Blake said. “This additional grant funding will significantly help families that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and allow our universities to continue to develop a stronger, educated workforce.”
New for 2020-21, the PA State Grant formula provides the same eligibility consideration regardless of how coursework is delivered; meaning that otherwise-eligible students enrolled in distance education will maintain full eligibility for PA State Grant awards. This is particularly important in light of a likely increase in distance education enrollments for the 2020 fall term as a result of COVID-19.
“It is an honor to serve on the PHEAA Board and in the state Senate to direct this funding to students seeking higher education,” Sen. Haywood said. “Access to higher education means that an entire family and community will be lifted by students who will make significant contributions.”
PHEAA has provided more than $1 billion in supplemental funding for student aid programs over the last 10 years. The Agency also self-funds the administration of the PA State Grant Program and other student aid programs and services for the Commonwealth, which saves taxpayers $19.2 million annually.
For more on the caucus’ PA CARES Plan visit pasenate.com/pacares.