Grant the Pell preservation
Published: Sunday, October 2, 2011
Updated: Sunday, October 2, 2011 16:10
House Republicans are proposing legislation in Congress that will aims to tighten eligibility on Pell Grant programs and would also eliminate 31 education programs, according to a report from the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), would maintain a maximum Pell Grant of $5,550 but would also tighten eligibility for these grants.
Now is not the time to be tightening the noose around those trying to achieve a higher education. Pell Grants are an important means for those who cannot afford an education to be able to obtain one. Unlike a loan, a Pell Grant does not have to be repaid, which is of significant importance to students getting their first degree. Graduating with less debt provides significant breathing room to be able to find work and take out loans for other needs, such as a car.
In his own opinions piece in the Huffington Post, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) argued that Pell Grants have long been on the hit list of Republicans, stating that they view them as "welfare" for children. Whitehouse said that a full Pell Grant covers 34 percent of the cost to attend a public four-year university, as opposed to the 72 percent that it covered in 1976. Even so, it can mean the difference between going to college or not going for many students.
Whitehouse notes that the House of Representatives already passed a budget that would have slashed Pell Grant funding, reducing the average award by $1,775 and slashing grants for more than 1.3 million students across the country. That proposal was ultimately blocked by the Senate.
It is an undeniable reality that things need to change in order to balance the federal budget and put the federal government on a course toward fiscal health. This will require some painful cuts and sacrifices from both political parties. But it is wrong to attempt to take a sledgehammer to a program that has already faced massive cuts, to the point where it only finances a fraction of what a public university education costs.
Fewer students with access to this resource will mean fewer students being able to attend college. This could potentially mean more students that would be earning less money than they would be through a university education. This, in turn, could mean less tax receipts coming in to the federal government, which is only going to hurt the effort to balance our budget.
Rather than propose such measures, a better alternative is to allow the current debt super committee to do its work. This committee has an important responsibility before it, and its work should ultimately be the framework upon which Congress decides the fiscal future of the federal government.
Acting independent of outside political influence, they need to find ways to work together to reform our tax code so that revenues can be increased while also making responsible spending cuts. The Pell Grant program, however, is one that needs to be preserved for the sake of students. This program is critical to helping those who want a higher education to achieve one.