Congress places Federal Pell Grant Program On The Chopping Block

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Congress Plans To Cut Over 300 million in funding for the Federal Pell Grant.

Many Of Our country’s poorest students are able to attend college solely because of federal grants including the Pell Grant program which began in 1972. Typically students whose household incomes are under $30K are eligible for the grant, that doesn’t have to be re-paid like student loans. This school year 9 million students have been able to take advantage of the $33.7 billion Pell Grant program. Two-thirds of African American undergraduates  and 51 percent of Latino undergraduates receive pell grant funding.

The cut is apart of the massive spending cuts designed to keep the federal government open through the end of the year and pay companies who collect on student loans for the Department of Education.

Surprisingly this effort is being lead by Democrats in the Senate. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), outgoing chairman of the sub-committee, first introduced the proposal over the summer to reduce funding for the $22.5 billion grant program by $303 million to pay companies, that collect student loan payments on the behalf of the Department of Education. A 2013 budget deal eliminated mandatory payments to many of those loan servicers, creating a funding gap. House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan argued that the federal budget couldn’t afford to support the growing number of recipients and overall expansion of the program. The proposal was shot down in the Senate, where Democrats, led by Harkin, supported a year-round expansion of Pell. Given Harkin’s past as an advocate for college affordability, student advocates were disappointed that he would jeopardize such a critical source of educational funding. To top that Harkin will be retired by the time the program faces the pending changes. Many student advocacy groups have been campaigning to protect the Pell Grant, writing letters to members of the appropriations sub-committee and urging students to call their representatives in Congress to head off the proposed cuts.