Press Release

WASHINGTON (July 29, 2011) — Last night, a handful of radical Republicans made it clear that they’d rather risk crashing our economy than support the Pell Grant program and the students who depend on it.

Cutting off opportunity for the low-income and working-class students who are pursuing the American Dream through hard work and education is not just mean-spirited, it’s wrongheaded. It imperils our economy and our values, immediately and far into the future.

Nearly 10 million low-income and working-class students rely on Pell as part of their college financing strategy. Though the maximum Pell Grant now covers only about one-third of the average cost of tuition at a public four-year college, it’s a vital part of the financial-aid package for many. A reduction in Pell would force these students — most of whom are already working and borrowing to attend school — to work more, borrow more, or forgo college all together. That’s something that our nation simply cannot afford.

There could hardly be a worse time to cut Pell:

•    A recent study from Georgetown University finds that our economy already will be short 3 million college graduates by 2018.

•    The cost of higher education is escalating rapidly, twice as fast as health care and four times faster than inflation.

•    Our students are already experiencing a debt crisis. Last year, student loans ($830 billion) surpassed credit cards ($827 billion) as the number one source of personal debt in America. Nearly 9 in 10 of the Pell recipients who graduate from four-year colleges also have student loans, with an average debt of $24,800. Driving these students deeper into debt by slashing Pell merely transfers our federal debt problems to these young people; it doesn’t solve anything.

•    By age 24, a student born into one of our wealthiest families is 10 times more likely to hold a bachelor’s degree than is a student born into a poor family. A cut in Pell would widen that gap, driving an even deeper and more dangerous wedge between the haves and have-nots in America.

Any final deal on the debt ceiling that aims to spur economic growth and recovery must protect Pell.