Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 14, 2011

ABOUT THOSE PELL GRANT CUTS.... The White House budget proposes a variety of spending cuts, but the reductions to the Pell grant program stands out, in large part because it's so unexpected. President Obama has made education such a high priority, and Democrats have been so critical of Republican efforts to gut education spending, it seemed like these cuts were out of character.

But there's more to it than may be apparent at first glance. First, Dems' criticisms of House Republicans on education are entirely accurate -- the GOP plan calls for devastating cuts to Head Start, Pell grants, and Title I grants (which help schools with kids who live in poverty), among other things.

Does the White House plan undercut Democrats' criticism of the GOP plan? Not really.

What Republicans are proposing is straight-up slashing of the Pell grant program -- those who rely on the grants to pay tuition will just be out of luck. The administration's proposal only cuts Pell grants for summer classes, and it's based on the belief that the grants cost more than expected, but didn't, in practice, produce the intended result (improving graduation rates).

The administration decided that the answer was no and that eliminating the program was the kind of budget cut that the government should be making, given the deficit. One reason to be skeptical that summer grants are making a big difference is that enrollment in summer classes has risen only marginally in the last year.

Jonathan Cohn added:

[I]f Obama gets his way, Pell Grants would provide basically the same academic-year assistance to basically the same population that it does now. The one key difference would be grants for summer tuition. They are a new feature of the Pell Grant program and many low-income students now use them. Obama would eliminate those grants.

But Obama's proposed cut comes after two years of bolstering student aid. And it is far smaller than the reduction than the GOP would impose. While House Republicans haven't provided details of their long-term plans for the program, their rhetoric and their existing proposals suggest they would cut Pell Grant funding at least in half. Awards would drop dramatically, starting with next fall's grants, and making it difficult if not impossible for millions of students to attend college.

When I asked around on this, reliable sources also emphasized that the White House's proposed "cuts" to Pell grants affects a fairly new program -- it's only within the last year that students could receive two Pell grants in one year (one for the academic year, one for the summer).

If it were up to me, there wouldn't be any cuts to the program. But the administration's proposal obviously isn't in the same league as what Republicans are proposing, and Obama's recommended cuts don't forfeit Dems' credibility when it comes to slamming the GOP's efforts to gut education spending.

Steve Benen 2:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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Comments

I'm sure Chunk Weezer (sp? -- oh, who cares)will be whining about this on MSNBC tonight. Pell Grants! Are you kidding me?

Posted by: hells littlest angel on February 14, 2011 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

I'm OK with this cut for summer sessions only, for the reasons you stated Steve.

Because if Republicans had there way, they'd send all 4 seasons of Pell straight to Hell.

Republicans: "Save our childrens future!"
How?
"Cut education now and in the future!"

How is it that people can't see through this obviously illogical BS?

Posted by: c u n d gulag on February 14, 2011 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP sucks. In my state good hair Perry is proposing pretty much eliminating any new students getting state financial aide and then the congressional dems want to eliminate the Pell program.

Students are going to be totally fucked. Welcome to the banana republican states of america.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on February 14, 2011 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks Steve for the explanation of Pres. Obama's proposed cuts in the Pell Grant program. I am little more ok with these cuts as explained here. As someone who benifited from these grants which at the time were called Basic Education Opportunity Grants I was just a little ticked at what Obama was proposing. I can accept the cuts as explained. We have to just make sure that the Repukes don't get the chance to do the cuts they wants. No low or middle income american would be left standing if they get their way.

Posted by: nodak on February 14, 2011 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Why the f*ck should we spend any of my hard earned tax dollars to pay for anyone's education?

If the corporate and wealthy owners of this country need to have anyone educated, we should be able to select who that is and how much education we want them to have and where we want them to be educated.

To spend my tax dollars on providing excessive and costly education to the peons who will be our field hands, lawn jockeys, and burger flippers is a waste!

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on February 14, 2011 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Cutting grants that directly effect low income students?

I guess when Dems end up allowing the gutting educational aid we are supposed to clap louder, with the knowledge that Obama's cuts were not as draconian as the ones he ends up signing?

Looking forward to future items from Benen and his cohorts over at The New Racist about how gutting Social Security is also a good thing, (keep clapping louder) and now if we can only get those deadbeats off of WIC we will really capture the center.

feh!

Posted by: some guy on February 14, 2011 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a financial aid officer at a major university and I'm fine with cutting these summer Pell Grants. Why, you might say? Well, most students don't receive enough in summer Pell Grants to cover their costs and the other aid programs aren't extended into the summer in the same way. That is why they aren't getting the results from them that they wanted.

Posted by: geg6 on February 14, 2011 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

The poor moderator. It must get tiring...

Posted by: hells littlest angel on February 14, 2011 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

But if we continue to provide for year round education, won't students graduate faster and theoretically get a better job at a younger age and contribute more in taxes?

Posted by: doubtful on February 14, 2011 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

I thought Obama was also proposing cuts to Pell Grants for graduate programs.

Posted by: DRF on February 14, 2011 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

"I guess when Dems end up allowing the gutting educational aid we are supposed to clap louder, with the knowledge that Obama's cuts were not as draconian as the ones he ends up signing?"

How about we wait until that actually happens before attacking him for it? Wouldn't that be a change?

As it is, I've seen so many attacks on things Obama was "going" to do but never did that I can't possibly keep them all straight. But all the same, these speculative attacks get filed away as if they were legitimate; which is the basis for further speculative attacks that never materialize.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 14, 2011 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Where's the rationalization for cutting heating aid by 50%? No one in Chicago goes without heat?

Posted by: impartial on February 14, 2011 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, Steve disagrees with an Obama Administration policy, yet he defends it. I am SO surprised!

Posted by: Tom Allen on February 14, 2011 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

DRF:

There are no Pell Grants for graduate work. They are only for undergrads.

Posted by: geg6 on February 14, 2011 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

I don't have a problem with student loan programs, but I don't agree with grants. Why should some people get free money for education?

Posted by: Kanzanian on February 14, 2011 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

Apparently this does cut aid to grad/professional students: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/cutting-pell-grants/?src=twrhp

Grad students would not have to pay until they finish, but the gov't will no longer pay for the interest accruing on loans.

As for "some guy", I'm sure he was declaring last last week that Obama was going to cut social security because of the Catfood Commission. Seeing as this budget does not touch all the major entitlement programs at all, he needs another bell to ring.

Posted by: Paula on February 14, 2011 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

But if we continue to provide for year round education, won't students graduate faster [...] -- doubtful, @16:00

Apparently, not. Or not enough. From Steve's article (with a link to NYT, which I cannot reproduce):
[...] the grants cost more than expected, but didn't, in practice, produce the intended result (improving graduation rates).

Also, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that a lot of those students have to work full time over the summer; just getting Pell grants to cover tuition for the same period is not going to be enough to make up for the loss of income.

Posted by: exlibra on February 14, 2011 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a financial aid officer at a major university and I'm fine with cutting these summer Pell Grants.

... because they primarily benefit students at community colleges.

Posted by: Pee Cee on February 14, 2011 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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