Editorial: Sustaining Pell Grants
Although less effective in reducing the overall budget, President Obama’s recent blueprint proposal for the 2012 budget seems to strike a balance between the importance of post-secondary education and the need to cut overall federal spending. The President’s budget blueprint sustains the maximum Pell Grant at $5,500 and protects many of the sources of funding for academic research and other education agencies that the House Republicans would eliminate. The blueprint also takes budget limitations into account by ending a recent experimental program that allowed students to qualify for two Pell Grants in a calendar year as well as eliminating the government’s subsidy for student loans for graduate students who are still in school. In an ideal world, those programs too would be maintained. Given the actual economic realities, though, it is likely that some programs must be cut; we strongly believe that the president’s proposal is a more responsible way to do so than the alternative.
Admittedly, maintaining these programs, particularly the maximum Pell Grant, will require significant investments by the government. Given the popularity of Pell Grants over the past two years, the program faces a potential $20 billion shortfall in 2012. The President’s blueprint counteracts this shortfall by increasing the Department of Education’s overall budget by 4.3 percent, which seems necessary for the overall stability of the system and continued promotion of education and the country’s future.
The current budget deficit clearly presents an important issue. Rather than resorting to widespread cuts to vital programs, particularly in education and research, however, the country should follow the model provided by President Obama’s blueprint for 2012. Education is a vital component of this country’s success, and — particularly in terms of Pell Grants — any cuts to that important program will have a significant impact on students’ access to post-secondary education. At Princeton, which provides one of the most comprehensive financial aid programs, 10 percent of the student body receives Pell Grants, and this number increases dramatically for universities with fewer funding options. The negative impact of the House Republicans’ plans for such extreme budget cuts would be devastating, and the editorial board supports — and calls on the University to support — continued funding of the programs they would slash.