WASHINGTON (August 1, 2011) — Thanks to the work of tens of thousands of advocates and nearly 100 organizations around the country, the Budget Control Act of 2011 will protect Pell Grants and the millions of students who depend on them.
Its important to put this development in context. In February 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget resolution, which, if enacted, would have slashed the maximum grant by about 45 percent and denied more than 1.4 million students the support that Pell provides. The Budget Control Act rejects that attack on students and adds $17 billion to Pell leaving the shortfall of this vital program at $1.3 billion for fiscal year 2012. In doing so, the new law helps to safeguard the future for nearly 10 million students who are striving for better lives through hard work and education.
As important as these provisions are to individual students and their families, they mean just as much to our nation as a whole. To cut back college opportunity now would only hobble efforts to regain our nations economic stability and long-term prosperity.
As critical as these protections are, Pell is not out of the woods not by a long shot. Both the upcoming appropriations process and the Super Committee created by the new law pose threats to the education of low-income and working-class students, pre-kindergarten through college. Advocates for these students need to stay engaged and demand that the next round of deficit reduction includes contributions from wealthy corporations and individuals.The new law helps to ensure that students who are now eligible for Pell Grants will receive them through at least the 2012-13 school year, but it does not increase college opportunity for low-income students. To become the nation that we hope to be, and in fact must be, we need to vastly expand college-going for all of our young people not just the most fortunate. This means families must hold their children to high expectations, and students must work hard to live up to those expectations. It means our schools must do a much better job of preparing all students, particularly low-income students and students of color, for success beyond high school. And it means those states, colleges, and universities that have shifted dollars away from need-based aid in favor of other kinds of aid must revise their policies to increase access.
Today the federal government took a critical step in protecting college opportunity. We must now work together to expand it.