Pell Not to Blame for Tuition Hikes

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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. 

Meanwhile, a rise in the number of Pell-eligible college students — caused in part by the economic slump — has driven 40 percent of recent growth in Pell Grants. Simply put, more people are getting Pell Grants. And that’s a good thing. Our country desperately needs more college-educated workers.  When more people get grants—the cost of the program goes up. But that's not what’s driving up the cost of college.

Long-term, The Congressional Budget Office expects the number of Pell recipients and program costs to grow by less than 1 percent in the next two years and by only 2 percent annually over the next decade. Since 1994, according to CBO, the Pell program has had more surpluses than shortfalls.  Pell is far from the budget buster that some are portraying it to be.

Axing Pell Grants is the wrong way to balance the budget. Students who’ve worked hard to get admitted to college shouldn’t be denied because they can’t afford it. Programs like Pell make a college degree possible for millions. The program is especially needed at a time when informed observers see higher education as a key to building prosperity, not only for individuals, but for our country.

Sign our petition and help save Pell.