In The Public Interest : Ryan's Budget Is A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing, Preying On Student Aid

Chairman Ryan's budget is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Preying upon genuine concern for our fiscal future, this budget takes direct aim at student aid programs that help job-seekers get the skills, training, and credentials they need to re-enter the recovering workforce.

Chairman Ryan's budget would cripple the Pell Grant, cutting off access to college by slashing the maximum award of $5,550. Pell Grants are the cornerstone of our nation's student aid program currently enabling over 9 million students to get the higher education and post-secondary job training they and our nation need.

See how much your congressional district receives through Pell Grants.

In the 1980s, the maximum Pell Grant covered most of the cost of attending a four-year public college. By 2007, it covered less than one third the cost of a public college--the lowest share in history. Since then Congress has invested in Pell Grants, much of it at no additional cost to taxpayers by streamlining financial aid programs. Nonetheless, Pell Grants still cover just one third of the cost of attending an in-state public college. Chairman Ryan's plan would reverse this progress, eliminating or cutting scholarship aid to all nine million recipients.

Pell Grant recipients already have to borrow more than others to complete their higher education. Nearly nine out of ten Pell Grant recipients who graduate from four-year colleges have student loans, and their average debt is $24,800, which is $3,500 more than non-Pell Grant recipients. Cutting the $5,550 Pell Grant maximum award would make it harder for millions of students to attend, stay and graduate from school.

Higher education drives economic growth. Eighty percent of the fastest growing jobs in the country demand training above a high school level. Our workforce needs 22 million more degrees by 2018, but we will fall short by three million degrees if we cannot increase graduation rates. Meanwhile, 43 states have already cut funding to higher education, pushing even more of the cost on to students and their families.

If this Congress is serious about job recovery, reducing access to college is the wrong approach. We should be investing in Pell Grants and looking for ways to increase the maximum Grant, not cut it, to enable more qualified students to stay in school, graduate, and enter the workforce with the skills that our economy demands.

With more than 13 million Americans unemployed and looking for work, our leaders must be doing all they can to help job-seekers get the skills, training, and credentials they need to re-enter the workforce. Chairman Ryan's FY12 budget must be rejected, along with any budget that cuts the Pell Grant maximum below $5,550.