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The Ryan Budget’s Myths about the Pell Grant

Thought the fight over federal funding was over? Hardly! Lawmakers in both chambers are gearing up for an extended fight to pass a budget that funds the government for the 2012 fiscal year. Deficit hawks on both sides of the aisle have their red pens out and claim to be ready to “make the hard choices” on federal spending in order to cut the deficit. However, some Members of Congress are hell bent on cutting federal spending regardless of the positive impact various programs have on the fragile economic recovery or our country’s future prosperity.

Congressman Paul Ryan introduced an outlandish proposal that would significantly, and in some cases completely, cut federal investment in programs supporting the most vulnerable in our country including Medicare, Medicaid, and financial aid for low to moderate income students attempting to get a higher education. In a posting on the House Budget website, Ryan attempts to “set the record straight” on his budget proposal. When questioned about cutting the Pell Grant “at a time when more of our nation’s young people need financial assistance to attend college” Ryan response suggests that the government simply cannot be bothered funding a program that seems to have a clear and growing need, with an increase of about 69% in recipients according to Ryan’s own calculations.

Ryan goes on to say that increases to tuition at some private universities, which actually receive less than 10% receive of Pell Grant dollars, are somehow tied to increases to the Pell Grant in recent years. However, according to Sandy Baum, senior policy analyst at the College Board, “There is no convincing evidence that increases in Pell Grants feed tuition increases in either public or private not-for-profit institutions. Increases in federal grant funding for low- and moderate-income students are critical to assuring educational opportunities for students with the most limited ability to pay and critical to the future of our economy.”

Members of Congress like Representative Ryan will offer many different reasons for cutting programs for students and families in need, but their claims of devotion to deficit reduction and reform are easy to see through when mirrored with provisions that pad the pockets of millionaires through tax breaks and corporate subsidies.

What remains to be seen is if education advocates will stand up for the Pell Grant and other necessary education programs or kowtow to false claims and political pressure.

Angela is the policy and advocacy manager for Campus Progress. She graduated from Western Michigan University.

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