In February, under the leadership of Speaker John Boehner, the House voted to decrease the maximum per-student Pell Grant allowance by $845. This would have been extremely detrimental to many college students. Fortunately, Pell Grants were generally saved in the 11th hour budget deal, “The White House protected…the maximum Pell grant of $5,550.” However, in the budget deal, Congress cut into Pell grant funding and removed students’ ability for federal aid in the summer. Under your chairmanship of the Budget Committee, this is just the beginning of the threat to decreased federal financial aid for students, our future leaders.
Recently I studied your “Path to Prosperity” budget plan for the fiscal year 2012. Needless to say, I was not pleased with what I found. With student debt at an all time high, rising tuition costs, and more students relying on Pell Grants than ever, why do you think it is necessary to significantly cut this necessary program?
You charge that Pell grant eligibility was “recklessly expanded” 139% over the last 4 years and recipients have increased by 69%. I strongly disagree this is “far beyond our means to pay for them and endangering the viability of the program for the truly needed.” If you have not noticed, debt from college is at an all time high for students and makes up for $1 trillion. There is a clear and growing need to sustain the Pell grant program, not cut it, which would hurt many students across the country.
Cutting Pell grants is risky business, especially when you wrongfully blame the “reckless expansion” on rising tuition at private universities, like Georgetown. Less than 10% of private universities receive Pell grant funding. Sandy Baum, a senior policy analyst at the College Board, says there is no convincing evidence that increases in Pell grants (which has been widespread over the last decade) is connected to increases in tuition. Furthermore, she claims, “Increases in federal grant funding for low- and moderate-income students are critical to assuring educational opportunities for students with the most limited ability to pay and critical to the future of our economy.”
This year, student debt will top $1 trillion. Despite this, you propose cutting the Pell Grant program, which has not been able to keep up with the number of students who qualify for federal aid. On the House proposal, Mark Kantrowitz said, “This proposal will cause more than a million students to lose edibility for the Pell Grant. Every $100 change in the maximum Pell Grant currently corresponds to about 200,000 recipients. The proposed cut in the maximum Pell Grant would mean that 1.7 million low-income students would no longer qualify for the Pell Grant, almost a fifth of current recipients. The remaining recipients would have their Pell Grants cut severely.”
At Georgetown, Pell Grants are extremely important to our student body. Cutting the Pell Grant program, clearly necessary and important, is unacceptable. As tuition costs rise, we should be looking at increasing aid rather than decreasing it. Our generation understands the importance of fiscal responsibility and the danger of reducing the federal budget deficit. However, doing so on the backs of our nation’s future leaders are, put plainly, irresponsible. I urge you to back down on your insistence to cut the Pell grant program.
Facts on Pell Grants:
- Federal Pell grants provide need-based grants to low income undergraduate students to promote access to post-secondary education.
- Grants are dependent on estimated family contribution, cost of attendance, enrollment status, and the duration of academic attendance.
- Federal Pell Grants do not have to be repaid like loans.
- The maximum Pell grant for the 2010-11 award year is $5,550.
- Pell Grants are considered foundational financial aid to which other federal and nonfederal sources might be added.
- Pell Grants were created through the Higher Education Act of 1965.
- [Federal Student Aid, Federal Pell Grant, accessed 4/8/11]