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ASBMB supports Pell Grant flexibility bill

Legislation would allow students with disabilities to reduce course load without losing funds
Raechel McKinley
Feb. 15, 2022

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology endorsed a bill earlier this month that will allow disabled students with accommodations to reduce their course load and still receive their Pell Grants and receive funding for longer.

Pell Grants fund students who come from families with low to moderate incomes. They are one of the largest sources of funding for undergraduate students, especially those who come from historically marginalized groups.

To receive the full grant amount, students must enroll full time. However, students with disabilities often need to enroll part time, resulting in less funding.

Students with disabilities enroll in STEM programs at the same rate as students without disabilities; however, only 29% of students with disabilities continue to earn bachelor’s degrees. This disparity is a result of many barriers, such as lack of proper accommodation and a welcoming climate, but financial struggles top the list.

Similar to students without disabilities, students with disabilities experience food and housing insecurities; but compared with their counterparts, their rates of food insecurity is higher.

Constituting 19% of undergraduate students, students with disabilities need to be prioritized.

The bill introduced in the U.S. House by  Rep. Joseph Morelle, D-N.Y., would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965, extending the period a student may receive Pell Grants to more than 12 semesters while being enrolled part time, resulting in more students with disabilities receiving funding for longer.

The ASBMB endorsed the bill saying that the legislation will “contribute to the retention and degree completion of students with disabilities.”

Stephan Smith, executive director of the Association on Higher Education and Disability, said that the legislation will provide “life-changing opportunities” by “instituting a commonsense flexibility that would allow disabled students to attend college at a pace consistent with their needs.”

Sarina Neote, director of public affairs for the ASBMB, said that the bill will help more students with disabilities earn degrees.

“However, more policies tackling accommodation needs, poor research climate, and accessible research infrastructure need to be implemented to increase the retention of students with disabilities in STEM,” she said.

 

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Raechel McKinley

Raechel McKinley is ASBMB's science policy manager.

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