Every year, millions of students in the United States depend on money from the government Pell grant program to earn a college education. For students who want to complete a degree or those interested in starting college, Pell grant money is designed to offer financial assistance when income levels are not sufficient enough for these individuals to achieve their goal. Although specific criteria must be met for qualification, this money has paved a way for many people to not just earn a college degree but then go out into the real world to secure gainful employment.
Over the past year, the amount of money available for the Pell grant program has decreased. As a result, a college education has been much harder to achieve for many people but in addition to this, the cut forced educational institutions to make dramatic changes. For many colleges and universities, this reduction has meant denying some people from being accepted as students but also, many colleges and universities have had to create unique funding programs to help students needing financial aid. As a result, the cost of tuition and other fees have gone up to help absorb the additional cost.
Now, President Obama has proposed a major change to the Pell grant program that could prove devastating both short and long-term. The current proposal would mean a decrease of more than $20 billion in Pell grant money for the academic year 2011 to 2012. However, the proposal also consists of another reduction of Pell grant money in the tune of $100 billion over the next 10 years. In a press conference, Arne Duncan, the United States Secretary of Education confirmed the facts of President Obama’s budget reduction.
While most Americans would agree the recent financial crisis resulted in a dark cloud hanging over the country from an economic standpoint, if the proposed Pell grant reduction were to be enacted, the number of low income students wanting a college education would be massive. Unfortunately, because people with the greatest need are the ones who depend on financial aid of this type most, the loss of funding would mean the opportunity to earn a degree and thereby, secure a stable and good paying job would be eliminated or at minimum, greatly altered.
Experts estimate that more than 9 million students throughout the United States currently receive a Pell grant reward of some level. Because of the way this program was developed, students of greatest need receive the highest rewards whereas those with the least need receive a lower amount of financial aid. Obviously, the number of returning students and those trying to get into college with the greatest financial need would decrease if the proposal by President Obama were to be approved.
According to colleges and universities around the country, while the proposed budget cut would equate to an extra $2 billion savings by loan subsides for graduate students being reduced and program consolidation, it also means that educational institutions would be forced to restructure a variety of academic plans. For instance, attendance of part-time students would drop significantly and for many people, a delay of going to college would be evident.
Now, as a caveat, Carmel Martin the assistant secretary with the United States Department of Education stated that with this proposal, instead of people being provided money upfront, the outcome would ultimately be much better. Martin went on to say that President Obama’s goal was to make college a priority for people with low incomes and that by making this change, overall spending within the department of education to accomplish this would increase by $2 billion, pushing the new budget for education to just under $5 billion.
It is important for people to remember that President Obama’s proposed budget cut to the Pell grant program is just that, a proposal. For this proposal to become law, it would likely face heavy scrutiny in Congress. At current time, no significant changes have been or will be made. With higher education being a major focus for the majority of people in this country, the final decision remains to be seen.