Obama guards Pell spending in debt deal

Pell Grants for low-income college students emerged as the president’s favored program in the debt-ceiling deal: Pell will get enough money to keep the maximum grant at $5,550. That means an extra $17 billion for the program between 2012 and 2015.

The White House said in a fact sheet posted online Sunday night that the deal was “designed to protect crucial investments like aid for college students,” giving “specific protection in the discretionary budget” to ensure that there will be sufficient funding to keep Pell Grants at their current level.

President Obama wants to be the Pell Grant President, writes Mickey Kaus.  “The phrase ‘President’s Historic Investment in Pell Grants’ is repeated twice, verbatim, for the proper Great Leap Forward effect.”

“A broad consensus has formed in recent years that Pell Grants need reform,” notes Inside Higher Ed. Pell advocates were prepared to restrict eligibility in order to prevent cuts in grant levels.  The deal provides time to redesign the program.

“It gives some stability to the Pell Grant program for a couple of years,” said Becky Timmons, assistant vice president for government relations at the American Council on Education. “Going forward, with the second part of the deal calling for pretty drastic cuts, it’s anybody’s guess how deep that will go.”

Richard Vedder suggests ways to get more graduates for the bucks.

Students whose predicted academic success rate (based on high school performance, test scores, etc.) is low would be given a Pell Grant on a probationary basis usable initially only at two-year degree colleges or certificated career-college programs; if they succeed there, they could pursue a four-year degree.

Pell Grant costs more than doubled in three years to reach $36 billion. Yet the U.S. Education Department doesn’t track the graduation rates of Pell Grant recipients.

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON August 1, 2011

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[...] President Obama protected Pell Grants from funding cuts in the debt-ceiling deal. As a “crucial investment,” Pell was given “specific protection in the discretionary budget,” a White House press release stresses. [...]

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