Press Releases

Kuster, Burchett, Schrier, Upton Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Make Graduate Education More Affordable for Low-Income Students


**Kuster introduced a previous version of this legislation in the 116th Congress**


Washington, D.C. — Today, Representatives Annie Kuster (D-NH), Tim Burchett (R-TN), Kim Schrier, MD (D-WA), and Fred Upton (R-MI) re-introduced the Expanding Access to Graduate Education Act, bipartisan legislation that would allow students who received a Pell Grant during their undergraduate education to utilize their remaining Pell eligibility towards their first graduate degree. Under current federal law, individuals are prohibited from using Pell Grants for graduate degrees.


“The high cost of graduate school is a barrier for many qualified and highly capable students from furthering their education and pursuing careers requiring an advanced degree,” said Rep. Kuster. "The Expanding Access to Graduate Education Act will help level the playing field for post-graduate opportunities, reduce student debt, and ensure workers have the skills they need to help fill the jobs of the future — a win-win for students and our economy."


“It just makes sense to let Pell Grants carry over to graduate school,” Rep. Burchett said. “This is a sensible way we can encourage folks to pursue their education whenever possible.”


“It’s crucial that we improve access to all levels of education for all students, especially as we recover from a global pandemic and economic recession. For many graduate students, the lack of financial aid is a significant barrier. Having attended medical school myself, I have seen how communities benefit when physicians come from diverse backgrounds. And I have also seen how much fellow students learn from colleagues who bring different lived experiences to the classroom,” said Rep. Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08). “Let’s expand access to graduate education and allow students to use any remaining undergraduate financial aid towards a post-secondary professional program. This is a win-win-win proposal – for students, schools, and communities.”

“The bottom line is this legislation will help make a graduate degree more affordable for the nearly 5,000 graduate students who attend Western Michigan University and the millions of graduate students across the country,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI). “Countless good-paying jobs today require a graduate degree, but earning one can be expensive - especially after already paying for an undergraduate degree. The bipartisan legislation we introduced today would help reduce the debt burden of these students.”


“Increasing access to graduate education is at a critical juncture,” said Jon Kull, Dean of the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies Dartmouth. “As we seek to diversify our graduate population, we are often met with questions from low-income and underrepresented groups regarding the affordability of graduate studies. The proposed legislation will help individuals from low-income and underrepresented groups continue their education by accessing funds not exhausted in their undergraduate years. Providing an extension for these funds which are already allocated would send a clear message of our national commitment to maintaining and growing our highly educated workforce in the global arena.”


"The Pell Grant provides considerable financial support to our student body, particularly those with limited family financial resources,” said Dr. Cari Moorhead, Dean of the Graduate School, University of New Hampshire. “At the University of New Hampshire over 1,000 of our undergraduate students graduated with Pell eligibility remaining. Of those students, 112 have returned for graduate study. Extending Pell eligibility to graduate students would be enormously significant for those students who could be using Pell rather than taking on additional student debt. In addition, if Pell eligibility were to be extended we would likely see additional enrollments in graduate school enhancing the students and in turn our communities."


"I am pleased to see Congressman Upton has again co-sponsored the Expanding Access to Graduate Education Act, as this legislation will put a graduate degree within reach of students who could not even imagine obtaining an advanced degree without financial assistance,” said Dr. Christine Byrd-Jacobs, Dean of the Graduate College, Western Michigan University. “This Bill will truly expand access to an advanced degree for income-eligible students, supporting the Western Michigan University mission of providing access for all to learn and will build more inclusive professions and stronger communities."


“A well-trained workforce is essential for economic growth, and employers are demonstrating increased need for workers with graduate degrees,” said Dixie Thompson, Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “The Expanding Access to Graduate Education Act would provide increased access to graduate education for Americans wishing to pursue advanced degrees. If passed, this Act would advance our commitment to workforce development and to greater access to graduate education regardless of a person’s socioeconomic status.”


Some of the nation’s fastest-growing professions require graduate degrees. However, many graduate students have few options outside of loans as a means of financing their education, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these affordability concerns. 


When bright minds are prevented from pursuing graduate education because of financial barriers, students are denied the opportunity to pursue more lucrative career paths and our nation’s employers are left without the skilled workforce they need. The Expanding Access to Graduate Education Act will continue Pell’s initial purpose of providing access to higher education for low-income individuals while modernizing it to meet the demands of the current workforce.


The full text of this legislation is available here.