WHAT IS THE PELL GRANT?

In 2006, the United States Department of Education cut $12.5 billion from the college financial aid budget. The Pell Grant, the foundation of the program, was hardest hit with the average award being reduced by several hundred dollars.

As the federal government looks for ways to trim its budget even more in the coming years don’t be surprised if the Pell Grant takes another major hit. Low-income students, the primary recipients of the Pell Grant, will suffer the most and very well may not be able to afford to attend college.

Is that necessarily a bad thing? As budgets tighten many number crunchers in the government look for things to cut and wonder if Pell Grant money is money well invested.

The numbers do not paint a pretty picture for Pell Grant recipients. A recent study suggests that Pell Grant recipients have not been the best investment of the government’s money.

First of all Pell Grant recipients finish higher in every one of the top seven risk factors for dropping out of college. If you ran a business you would not survive long making decisions this way.

Let’s look at an example. Pell Grant recipients are more likely to be a single parent than non-recipients. Being a single parent is one of the seven risk factors for dropping out of college. Should the government be investing our tax money in what essentially results in wealth redistribution?

To be fair, fifty seven percent of Pell Grant recipients come from families that earn less than $20,000 a year. Ninety percent come from families that earn less than $41,000 a year.

Pell Grant recipients are less well-prepared academically. They also have lower SAT and ACT scores. The curriculum most of them took in high school was less rigorous than non-recipients. Is this an equitable system or is it merely thinly disguised social engineering?

Does this mean we should re-think the paradigm of the Pell Grant? It depends on your point of view.

If you pay your hard-earned tax dollars to the government would you rather see your money spent to help low-income students attend college or would you like to see your money go to the highest-performing students regardless of income?

It is worthy of debate. To add fuel to the fire of the great Pell Grant debate, many believe the Pell Grant is being used by colleges and universities so they can point to their racial and economic diversity. There is never any mention of intellectual diversity.

To add insult to injury, the Pell Grant’s buying power on a college campus has been greatly diminished over the last twenty years. In 1990, a Pell Grant covered roughly sixty percent of a student’s costs. Today, that same grant at that same college will cover between twenty five and thirty percent of a student’s costs.

The Pell Grant was named after Claiborne Pell, a Democrat Senator from the state of Rhode Island. Senator Pell could scarcely have imagined the impact the grant that carries his name would have on America. Congratulations, Senator Pell, on a job well done.

The market for international scholarships is exploding, with more foreign students enrolled in the United States than at any other time in history.

Since its inception, the Fulbright Scholarship program has seen 300,000 students, teachers and professionals go through its program. Each year about 8,000 grants are awarded.

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