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Pell Grant at risk of being cut off

December 15, 2011

IN OUR OPINION

 

To many students, the Pell Grant is a dependable federal financial aid program that creates financial stability by providing grants for college tuition. Yet, for an estimated 30 percent of Louisiana undergraduates and 9 million students around the nation, Pell Grants may no longer remain an option.

 

According to www.americanprogress.org, the entire budget for Pell Grants 2012 is under negotiation and may be shut down.

 

Despite saving $3.2 billion by eliminating the “Full-Year Pell,” a program that enabled year-round students to qualify for additional funding, the House Budget Committee is attempting to make more cuts.

 

They are planning to cut awards for students whose families earn between $15,000 and $30,000 per year, take longer than six years to finish their degree, work part-time, attend college less than half-time or whose families benefit from safety net programs. This new rule may end up eliminating $896 million that could be used to fully fund the Pell Grant program.

 

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Pell Grant program is expected to cost more than $31.7 billion in award year 2012-2013, which lasts from July 1, 2012, until June 30, 2013.

 

However, due to Pell scoring rules adopted in their 2006 budget resolution, Congress must enact sufficient funding to cover these costs so they do not negatively impact future years and maintain the maximum award of $5,550.

 

There is no reason for the CBO to force all of the remains from the 2012-2013 Pell program to come from the 2012 budget. With college debts steadily increasing and the economy crippling, there is no excuse for cutting aid to students, especially students from low-income backgrounds. Education should be one of the first priorities, not the last.

 

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, agreed and said in a Nov. 15 news release that supporting the Pell Grant is not about politics, but doing what’s smart for the country and for young people who deserve an education.

 

“For many needy students, Pell Grants are what make the dream of a college education a reality,” she said. “Education is critically important to individuals and their families, but it is also the seed corn for our future economic vitality as a nation. Pell Grants help move our entire country forward by ensuring that we have the most educated and skilled workforce possible to compete in the increasingly globalized economy.”

 

The U.S. Senate also proposed to cover the $1.3 billion shortfall by eliminating a student loan subsidy that paid the interest on certain loans during a six-month period before students were required to make repayments.

 

Although the proposal had some fallbacks, it would save $2.3 billion over the next two years, which would be sufficient enough to cover $1.3 billion shortfall in award year 2012-2013.

 

In addition, the savings could be applied Pell Grants in award year 2013-2014 which would maintain the maximum award of $5,550 and avoid further cuts for eligible students. To place this in perspective, if the House Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012 proposes cuts were passed, approximately $3.6 billion, at least one million students would have their Pell Grant eliminated.

 


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