A new study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, “The Undereducated American,” shows how the shortage of college-educated young people could devastate our economy over the next 15 years. Report authors Anthony P. Carnevale and Stephen J. Rose argue that our nation’s workforce will become less competitive and that the income-inequality gap will widen, unless we can increase the number of Americans who have completed education beyond high school.
Yet, in a twist of irony, GOP leaders in Congress seem poised to slash the Pell Grant program, one of our nation’s best hopes for growing a college-educated workforce. Pell works to prepare Americans for current and future jobs, and to boost the economy. It gives working-class students a foot in the door of postsecondary education that can help them earn their way into the middle class.
Pell Grants, which for more than 30 years have opened college doors to millions of students as they’ve worked their way into the middle class, are on the chopping block.
To justify the unjustifiable, GOP leaders are blaming this vital financial-aid program for soaring college tuition. These are trumped-up charges, to say the least. Rep. Paul Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, claims the draconian cuts he’s urged — which would slash Pell’s maximum award from $5,550 to about $3,040 — would slow rising tuition costs. Yet the evidence he cites for this myth has been consistently refuted by experts.
Here’s the truth about Pell: Even after recent increases, Pell Grants cover only about one-third of the average cost of attending a public four-year college. In the 1980s, Pell covered more than half the cost. Since then, rather than driving college costs upwards, Pell Grants haven’t even kept pace with the bank-breaking growth in college costs.
The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) recently published a new profile of the American college student. The profile makes clear that many students are working while in school. The CLASP profile shows 45 percent of undergraduates are employed part time. Among young community college students, 63 percent said they would not be able to attend college, if they did not work.
America’s future prosperity depends mightily on our ability to produce more college graduates who are prepared to compete in the global economy. To achieve that goal, the CLASP profile suggests we’ll need strong financial-aid programs like the Pell Grants to supplement the earnings of these students so that they can meet the skyrocketing cost of college.
A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that the hard work of America’s educators and students is yielding important progress. Achievement is rising for Latino students, particularly in fourth-grade reading, where the gap between whites and Latinos has narrowed by 10 points since 2000 — about a full year’s worth of learning.
Despite these gains, we’re nowhere near where we need to be. Over the past two decades, the Latino student population in the nation’s schools has increased by 138 percent, to more than 11 million students nationwide. This extraordinary growth demands that we accelerate our progress in closing the achievement gaps that separate them from their white peers.
New federal data on achievement in U.S. history reveal some good news for African-American students. The gap between black eighth-graders and their white peers shrank by 20 percent from 2006 to 2010. Meanwhile, from 1994 to 2010, the achievement gap between black and white fourth-graders shrank by one-third.
While this is encouraging news, the results also show that four out of every five African-American 12th-graders performed below “basic,” indicating that much more work is needed.
Like millions of other Americans, President and Mrs. Obama depended heavily on financial aid to fund their college educations. No doubt, that experience informs the president’s ongoing support of the Pell Grants program, even in these difficult economic times. During a recent meeting with 10 youth leaders from around the country, he made it clear that the nation can’t afford to balance the budget on the backs of college students.
As the inside-the-Beltway discussions of federal accountability heat up, it is worth taking a breath to consider what the research says about the impact of accountability provisions in No Child Left Behind.
Results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress exams in math and reading, for example, show that low-income eighth-graders made faster gains in reading and math after passage of NCLB than they had before. What’s more, the Council of Chief State School Officers reports, 75 percent of states have made achievement gains with economically disadvantaged eighth-graders on state math assessments. Meanwhile, 20 percent of states have made progress toward closing gaps between low-income and high-income students. And new and rigorous research published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management confirms these trends.