Friday, April 15, 2011

Pell Grants [UPDATED April 18, 2011]

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[Updated: More organizations signed the letter to Congress on April 18, and those changes have been made below]

Many of you do not support the Pell Grant program, and your reasons for that are understandable. While I agree with a lot of the arguments readers have made about the problematic nature of this program, I do not think it should be cut from any budget plan. In fact, I recently signed a letter to Congress making that clear, and wanted to share it with all of you. That said, I do not think that Pell Grants should be used to support educational programs at for-profits. I have been, and always will be, adamantly against for-profit schools. They are despicable. There must be a way to ensure that low-income students receive Pell Grants, while not being ripped off by for-profits. I am glad to hear that Senator Dick Durbin has concerns about Pell Grant funds being funneled to for-profits. Therefore it is up to policymakers to solve this glaring problem.

Here is the letter to Congress:

April 18, 2011
U.S. Congress
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Member of Congress:

With more than 13 million Americans unemployed and looking for work, our leaders must be
doing all they can to help job-seekers get the skills, training, and credentials they need to re-enter
the workforce.  Yet Chairman Ryan’s fiscal year 2012 budget resolution would cripple the Pell
Grant, cutting off access to college by slashing the maximum award of $5,550.  Pell Grants are
the cornerstone of our nation’s student aid program currently enabling over 9 million students to
get the higher education and post-secondary job training they and our nation need.

In the 1980s, the maximum Pell Grant covered most of the cost of attending a four-year public
college.  By 2007, it covered less than one third the cost of a public college—the lowest share in
history.  Since then Congress has invested in Pell Grants, much of it at no additional cost to
taxpayers by streamlining financial aid programs. Nonetheless, Pell Grants still cover just one
third of the cost of attending an in-state public college.  The House Budget Committee plan
would reverse this progress, eliminating or cutting scholarship aid to all nine million recipients.
Pell Grant recipients already have to borrow more than others to complete their higher education.
Nearly nine out of ten Pell Grant recipients who graduate from four-year colleges have student
loans, and their average debt is $24,800, which is $3,500 more than non-Pell Grant recipients.
Cutting the $5,550 Pell Grant maximum award would make it harder for millions of students to
attend, stay and graduate from school.

Higher education drives economic growth.  Eighty percent of the fastest growing jobs in the
country demand training above a high school level. Our workforce needs 22 million more
degrees by 2018, but we will fall short by three million degrees if we cannot increase graduation
rates.  Meanwhile, 43 states have already cut funding to higher education, pushing even more of
the cost on to students and their families.  

If this Congress is serious about job recovery, reducing access to college is the wrong approach.
We should be investing in Pell Grants and looking for ways to increase the maximum Grant, not
cut it, to enable more qualified students to stay in school, graduate, and enter the workforce with
the skills that our economy demands.  We urge you to vote against Chairman Ryan’s FY12
budget, and any budget that cuts the Pell Grant maximum below $5,550.

All Education Matters
American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers
American Federation of Teachers
American Medical Student Association
American Student Association of Community Colleges
Campaign for College Affordability
Campus Progress
The Education Trust
Forum for Youth InvestmentGenerational Alliance
Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
The Institute for College Access & Success
Institute for Higher Education Policy
League of United Latin American Citizens
National Association for College Admission Counseling
National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education
National Black Law Student Association
National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP)
National Council of La Raza
National Student Nurses' Association, Inc.
The Pell Institute
Rock the Vote
Roosevelt Institute Campus Network
Thurgood Marshall College Fund
United States Student Association
U.S. Public Interest Research Group
Young Invincibles

Related Links

"Rehberg Responds To Pell Grant Comment," April 14, 2011

"Pell Grant Cuts Hurt For-Profit College After 8-Fold Increase," April 15, 2011

"End Of Year-Round Pell Grants Could Lead Many Nontraditional Students to Drop Out," April 14, 2011


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure of what the arguments against Pell Grants are, except for the fact that the Pell program is non-performance based (not tied to the student's making academic progress), non-merit based (not tied to grades/academic achievement either in college or high school), and efficacy (can anyone prove the program is correlated with persistence, completion, etc.) There are pros and cons regarding administrative ease and policy rationales for financial need vs. merit, vs. a hybrid approach. However, the argument that Pell Grants are driving the inflation in the sticker price of education has been repeatedly disproven.

While there may be an inflationary impact from unsubsidized Stafford loans (minor increases in annual borrowing limits during the past three years) and Grad PLUS loans (no borrowing limit; graduate/professional students only), there is no inflationary impact from Pell Grants. Despite nominal increases in the past couple years in the "maximum Pell Grant level," even the maximum Pell Grant level is a tiny fraction of the cost of postsecondary attendance. Yes, there are still people going to school at institutions where tuition is $3000. You have to remember, however, that there is room/board/food/living expenses of about $10,000 wherever you live in the USA. If you live on campus, these costs are very explicit in the term bill If you live off campus, this is still a very real cost and is included in the financial aid budget despite not being explicitly on the term bill.

For the mainstream college, for example, a private non-profit or for profit school where full-time attendance costs the student $50,000+ per year, increasing the Pell Grant maximum from $4000 to $5000 is certainly no impact on inflation in the sticker price of college.

Cryn Johannsen said...

The assertion that Pell Grants drive up the tuition is wrong, and I am not suggesting that such an argument is valid.

Anonymous said...

Anything that creates more available cash for a finite commodity drives up cost. In this case its cash in the form of Pell grants.

Anonymous said...

Bullshit! Tuition frequently increases in amounts greater than the increase in Pell Grants. There are many reasons institutions raise tuition. Right now my school is raising tuition because of budget cuts, frequently losing money in our football program, and because the Board of Regents thinks it is ok because nine other "randomly" selected schools have higher tuition rates.
if "Anything that creates more available cash for a finite commodity drives up cost. In this case its cash in the form of Pell grants" was true, explain the constantly rising graduate tuition. Pell grants are nothing but a dream for almost all grad students.

Reid said...

Everyone should have the right to an education and Pell grants are a necessity to achieve that goal. How will we compete with other countries if our population is dumbed down and unable to do so because of the lack of an education. Ignorance is not bliss! Pell Grants ensure that even the poorest have an education beyond high school. Although it is not enough, it is a start and will ensure that these students are not forced in to student loans that they will not be able to afford later on in life.