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More than 300 higher education institutions and advocacy groups sent a letter to congressional leaders today asking that the value of the Pell Grant be indexed to inflation. After the upcoming academic year, the value of the grant will not automatically go up to adjust for inflation for the first time in six years. 

"Pell Grants are the foundation of our national investment in higher education, giving low-income students the opportunity to go to and graduate from college and pursue careers that increasingly require a postsecondary education," the groups wrote. 

In the coming year, the groups told lawmakers, Pell Grants will assist more than 7.5 million college students. But the maximum value of the grant covers less than 30 percent of the average cost of a four-year public university. That's the lowest purchasing power for the grant in 40 years, the groups said.

Congress in May restored year-round Pell Grants, a policy change long sought by higher ed advocates. But the higher ed groups noted that Pell recipients are more likely to take out student loans and hold higher average debt than their peers, showing the need to boost the value of the grant, they said.