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CLASP Joins Clay Pell in Celebrating 40 Year of Pell Grants and Honoring His Grandfather's Legacy

Jul 03, 2012

By Vickie Choitz

CLASP recently joined advocates around the country to celebrate the Pell Grant's 40th anniversary and to highlight the importance of the program for low- and modest-income students wanting to earn a postsecondary credential. Clay Pell, grandson of Senator Claiborne Pell, has been an important partner in celebrating the Pell Grant program and in the movement to ensure all needy students have access to this vital student financial assistance. Clay's op-ed, posted on July 3, is an eloquent personal reminder of his grandfather's legacy and all Pell Grants do for students and the country.

In the Providence Journal:

"When I was a boy, my grandfather would take me on runs."Shuffles," he called them - 1.1 miles from the house and back. People would often stop us to thank him for helping them go to college.

By the time that I headed to college, Parkinson's disease had long since slowed Grandpa's gait. But he lovingly invested in my education - both financially and emotionally - every step of the way.

My grandfather was Sen. Claiborne Pell, who 40 years ago overcame opposition in Congress to establish a grant enabling every American "with the moxie and the drive" to get access to a college education. Since 1972, Pell Grants have let 60 million students pursue higher education, including much of America's current college-educated workforce and 9.8 million current students.

All my life, people have approached me to say how much their Pell Grants meant to them. It's not just that the money made their educations possible, they say, but that they feel proud of, and grateful to, a country that invested in them.

When the U.S. Coast Guard assigned me to Washington in 2009, I was naturally drawn to the debate over the Pell Grants. While here, it's been interesting - and somewhat sad - to hear people say that we can no longer afford this program. Some think that higher education does not need to be accessible to all. Others suggest that the Pell Grants should be less ambitious, focusing not on those with the greatest need but rather those who fit a preconceived view of ‘the best investment.'"

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