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*-- Obama administration looks to boost Pell Grants, hasten graduation rates --*

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration on Tuesday said two proposals to expand the Pell Grant program would help low-income students make quicker progress to a degree.

The first of two Pell proposals would provide some 700,000 eligible students with an additional $1,915 on average to pay for summer classes. Since most students exhaust their Pell funding after two traditional semesters, the additional funding would allow for more classes, the U.S. Department of Education said.

The second proposal would increase the maximum Pell award by $300 for students who take 15 credit hours per semester in an academic year. The current maximum annual award, based on financial need and cost of the college, is $5,775. Unlike other forms of financial aid, Pell Grants do not have to be repaid.

In total, the boosted Pell proposals mean an additional $2 billion in fiscal 2017 for students working towards degrees. The proposals must work their way through the Republican-controlled Congress, which will likely be an uphill struggle.

"Today's new initiatives would complement existing administration proposals designed to help more students from all backgrounds succeed in college, by helping to improve student outcomes and increase the number of students who graduate, accelerate degree completion time, make college more affordable, help lower student debt, and ensure students graduate with the knowledge and skills needed in today's economy," the department said.

The announcement comes as the nation struggles with growing college costs and mounting outstanding student loan debt. The Obama administration said the Pell initiatives would boost other proposals designed to help more students succeed in college.


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