Sunday, May 27, 2018
News Roundup

PolitiFact: Kal Penn's on the money about 'doubling funding for the Pell Grant'

The statement

Says Obama doubled funding for the Pell Grant.

Kal Penn, in a speech at the Democratic National Convention

The ruling

Sandwiched between Kal Penn's laugh lines during his Democratic National Convention speech — including his appeal for viewers to include "#sexyface" in their tweets about his remarks — were claims about President Barack Obama's accomplishments.

"Now, I've worked on a lot of fun movies, but my favorite job was having a boss who gave the order to take out (Osama) bin Laden, and who's cool with all of us getting gay-married. So thank you, invisible man in the chair, for that," he said, referencing Clint Eastwood's off-the-cuff remarks to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention. "And for giving my friends access to affordable health insurance and doubling funding for the Pell Grant."

Penn, the Harold and Kumar star who spent a couple years in the White House Office of Public Engagement, was among several speakers who praised Obama for doubling the Pell Grant.

The grant program is a popular, 40-year-old federal subsidy for middle- and low-income students that does not have to be repaid. A person's eligibility is determined by several factors, including how much money his or her family makes.

Penn's claim that Pell Grants have doubled is true, in terms of expenditures.

In the 2008-09 academic year, Pell Grant expenditures were about $18 billion. In 2011-12, expenditures are $36 billion.

Experts point to a few factors to explain increased Pell spending: more people going to or returning to college because of the recession and more people in need of grants because of the recession.

Some recipients are receiving larger awards. Four years ago, the maximum Pell Grant award was $4,731, according to the Department of Education. The max has been $5,550 since 2010. It's expected to increase to $5,635 in the 2013-14 academic year and will rise in line with inflation through 2017.

"Absolutely, (Obama)'s made it a priority," said Robert Moran, director of federal relations at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Still, the feds have tinkered with the program's eligibility as a way to reduce some of the costs. Moran said he's seen projections that say more than 100,000 students didn't qualify for grants because of these changes.

Plus, the grant covers less of the cost of college than it did a decade ago.

Kal Penn is right that Obama doubled funding for the Pell Grant. But he left out that it's more difficult to get the grants and that the money covers less of the cost of college. We rate this claim Mostly True.

This ruling has been edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

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Published: 05/26/18