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 Legislative Alert: Protect the Pell Grant 

4/6/2011

Three million community college students rely on Pell grants to help pay for tuition, books, and living expenses each year. Yet, legislative measures currently under consideration threaten to drastically cut the current $5,550 maximum grant.

As of the date of this alert, negotiations continue on Capitol Hill to reach an agreement on final spending levels for FY 2011. A series of continuing resolutions (CRs) has maintained last year’s funding levels for most federal programs, but the current CR expires this Friday, April 8. Earlier this year, the House passed its version of a yearlong CR (H.R. 1) that would have cut the maximum Pell Grant by $845. While this proposal is not expected to be part of any final deal, Pell Grants are still in danger of being cut by a smaller amount in FY 2011. In any case, H.R. 1 made clear that we have a long and difficult battle ahead to maintain the Pell Grant maximum at $5,550.

The next phase of that battle is the FY 2012 funding cycle. In his recently revealed budget blueprint, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has proposed rolling back funding for the Pell Grant program to FY 2008 levels or lower, which would result in a cut to the maximum grant at least as large as the cut in H.R. 1, and possibly much larger. Chairman Ryan’s budget will likely pass the House soon and would then set the funding parameters for the House’s FY 2012 appropriations bills. Needless to say, any budget resolution that the Democrat-controlled Senate might pass will look far different. 

With Congress poised to make critical funding decisions that will determine funding levels for the Pell Grant and other programs for FY 2011 and FY 2012, it is essential that members of Congress hear now from community college leaders about the importance of maintaining the current Pell Grant maximum at $5,550.  You may wish to make the following points in your communications with your representatives and senators:

• Pell Grants are essential to helping more than 3 million community college students finance their college education. Sixty percent of these students qualify for the maximum grant, given to the neediest students. Pell Grants help these students afford not only college tuition, but also books and living expenses.
• Cutting the Pell Grant would directly and significantly impair the nation’s ability to increase the number of Americans who obtain college degrees and certificates. Postsecondary education is essential to joining the middle class, and America’s global economic competitiveness will suffer if the program is retrenched, especially compared to countries that are dedicating substantial resources to producing more college graduates.
• Multiple studies have found that increases in the Pell Grant do not drive increases in college tuition, as has been asserted. Affordability is a central tenet of the community college mission, so colleges take every measure to hold down tuition. In many cases, state legislatures, and not colleges, set tuitions.
• Measures to control the costs of the Pell Grant program, which have soared mainly because of the spike in college enrollment during the current recession, may be necessary, but they should be narrowly tailored to have the least possible impact on the students that need these grants. Cutting the maximum award by hundreds of dollars would have a devastating impact on these students.

Please call, fax, or e-mail your congressional delegation, and ask your representative and senators to reject any spending bills that would cut the Pell Grant maximum below the current $5,550. 

 

For more information, please contact David Baime at dbaime@aacc.nche.edu or (202) 728-0200, ext. 224

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