HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The cost of higher education is always increasing. But now, Connecticut officials are making an effort to keep costs affordable for families across the state.

New funding from Congress is expected to increase aid for students that receive Pell Grants, as these students often experience greater financial burdens. Federal Pell Grants are awarded to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial needs and have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.

The funding will include a $500 increase for Pell Grant recipients. That’s a 6% increase overall. And in Connecticut, over 44,000 students receive this type of grant.

“This extra financial assistance has allowed me to focus on my studies and pursue my dreams without the burden of student debt hanging over my head,” said Siddhi Suresh, a student at SCSU who received a Pell grant.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro secured $24.6 billion for Federal Student Aid programs in 2023, which is where the increase for the grant recipients is coming from.

There has been a lot of talk about the impact of the pandemic on education, but you might not know that enrolment at colleges and universities like Southern dropped considerably during the pandemic. That is especially true among low-income students, the very students’ Pell grants help.

“Though the increase in the Pell grant is one small step towards giving students the opportunity to unlock their true potential without having to worry about financial barriers,” said SCSU Student Wilson Valois, another Pell grant recipient.

DeLauro is the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and also the Chair of the subcommittee that provides funding for Pell Grants.

This is a $34 million increase above the 2022 federal spending bill enacted level.

“Every young person in America should have the opportunity to get a good education without getting trapped into a lifetime of student loan debt,” DeLauro said.

She says she hopes the funding continues to increase, but it could just as easily go down with the current makeup of congress.