Not broke! Pell will run surplus till 2015

The Pell Grant program is not going over a fiscal “cliff” any time soon, according to a new Congressional Budget Office report. Policy changes have turned a projected deficit into a surplus, reports Inside Higher Ed.

At the end of fiscal year 2013, the program will have $9.2 billion left over. Congress could fund the program at current annual appropriation levels — right now, the total program cost is $36 billion, with $23 billion from annual appropriations — for 2014 and meet the program’s needs, said Jason Delisle, director of the Federal Education Budget Project at the New America Foundation. The shortfall for 2015 is only $1.4 billion — much smaller than the $8.7 billion previously projected.

In September, the Education Department reported that the Pell Grant program cost $6.5 billion less than expected in the 2011-12 fiscal year, and $2.2 billion less than in 2010-11. That decrease, driven both by eligibility cuts and by a drop in spending on students at for-profit colleges, also came as a surprise to many observers.

The $1.4 billion shortfall in 2015 is “manageable,” Delisle said.