April 5, 2011
Today, the Washington Times carried a story by Ben Wolfgang on the Pell Grant financial crisis facing the Congress. Congressional Democrats like Senator Tom Harkin will oppose any cuts. Even the Obama Administration realizes that big reductions in the program have to be made. Here is how bad things are:
Education Secretary Arne Duncan last month projected the program, designed to help low-income students afford college, could face a $20 billion shortfall in 2012, another in a recent run of annual deficits that has been been masked in past years.
President Obamas 2009 stimulus plan, for example, funneled $15.6 million into Pell Grants. A bill last year to rework the administrations health-care plan dumped in $13.5 billion, but the program still had a[n] $8.6 billion shortfall, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The administration wants $41.2 billion in the fiscal 2012 budget to keep Pell Grants at a $5,550 maximum per student. House Republicans voted to slash that to $4,015 per student as part of House Resolution 1, a 2011 spending plan voted down in the Senate last month.
Sen. Michael Enzi (ranking member on HELP Comm.) and Rep. Virginia Fox (chairman, education subcommittee on higher ed) have stated that the program has to change considerably, and they seem willing to fight on this.
A final point made in the article comes from Heritages Lindsey Burke: the cost of college tuition since 1980 has skyrocketed 439%, while Pell Grant funding has increased 480%. It doesnt seem completely clear that the Pell Grants are not driving tuition increases. In that case, increases in grant spending contribute to the college debt crisis for those under 40 and should be opposed even more rigorously.