This past fall was a dismal for higher education. Financial aid designed for low- and middle-income college students known as Pell Grants were targeted for deep cuts in a letter written by Minnesota Congressman John Kline and signed by other GOP leaders.
Grants and financial aid is vitally important for Americans pursuing higher education. Discouraging students from pursuing college is just about the worst economic strategy one could take. America will need more and more workers who have college degrees or training.
We know that student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion and is more than our nation’s damaging credit card debt. Students and families relying upon Pell Grants are more likely to need loans as well. By cutting Pell Grants, the signers of the Oct. 14 letter threaten to drive up student loan debt and drive away students from college and economic opportunity. There are more politically responsible ways of cutting costs and reducing the cost of financial aid but it will not be by cutting aid to students, it will be by cutting costs charge by colleges and universities.
Cutting Pell Grants is a double whammy for most states Fewer Pell Grant dollars for students means State Grant Program, which helps students afford college, has to spend more to meet student need, which in turn limits the number of students who receive state grants or the amount that many may receive.
Pell Grants are “the foundation of our nation’s commitment to assist low-income students in accessing higher education.” Thousands of students in virtually every congressional district rely upon Pell Grants.
Slashing grants for students erodes our nation’s economic “foundation” at the very time we need it most. Too often politicians are too concerned with themselves, their votes and what sounds good then what is good for our country and our future.
The Pell Grant funding has grown. Of course it has — and it should. Financial aid needs rise as student and family funds drop (as they do in a recession), as more students seek an education to help them get a job (as they do in a recession) and as more adults return to college for job training (as they do in a recession).
The letter is alarming. The writers claim “the economic downturn” requires cutting Pell Grants, showing that they do see a link between education and our economy. Unfortunately, they arrive at the absolutely wrong solution. Instead of thinking about the students and their parents, they are only thinking about budgets and today, what about tomorrow and the future generation of this country.