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Moving the Needle Forward for College Students

On Saturday, February 19, 2011 the U.S. House of Representatives adopted House Resolution 1 that will dramatically reduce federal spending for the current year (2011) by nearly $100 billion. Reducing the size of the federal government is exactly what many newly elected members of Congress were sent to Washington to accomplish. While the debate over the size and scope of government is the heart of liberal versus conservative ideology–the reality is that at least some of the adopted cuts will dramatically impact the ability of college students to have access to higher education and consequently good paying jobs.

The most destructive cuts were made to the Pell Grant Program . Pell is the cornerstone federal financial aid program and provides needs-based grants to low income students. Without this program, the ability of Americans to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps and carve out a better life would compromised. Legions of college students rely on Pell Grants to have access to higher education.

Last week, the U.S. House reduced the amount of individual student Pell assistance from $5,500 per award to $4,655.00 per award. Public policy choices like this will reverse objectives like the Lumina Foundation’s BIG Goal to increase the number of college graduates in the U.S. from 40 to 60 percent by the year 2025. The United States is currently ranked tenth in the world in terms of college attainment. If cuts like this occur or continue we will definitely fall further behind in our ability to compete in the global economy. Moving the needle forward by increasing the number of college graduates will take more support from all levels of government—NOT less.

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