Editorial: Pell Grant Boost Erodes Student Aid Elsewhere

    Behaviorially, the lesson to reject candy from strangers is simple: A step away from normal behavior – strangers don’t usually offer candy – should flag some element gone amiss. Last week’s Pell Grant proposal from President George W. Bush, whose tenure has seen the cap set on maximum Pell Grant awards for four straight years, offers such candy.

    The deal seems sweet enough: Students this year could receive up to $4,310, compared to the current $4,050. Additionally, the move will up the status of the need-based grant, which is championed by the bulk of academia as a vital spoke of college accessibility.

    But contextually, Bush fails. Other grant programs, including the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, which provide up to $4,000 for underprivileged students – will be pilfered to pay for the Pell Grant boost.

    From a broader, ideological standpoint, the proposal adds more insult. The administration’s 2007-08 budget would push defense spending to unprecedented levels, while in education, Bush is still trying to resuscitate his wilted No Child Left Behind Act, this year gifting it with $24.5 billion. So as college lobbyists exult at the Pell Grant’s fortune, this board remains unmoved. Languishing, and now endangered, programs such as SEOG will unfortunately find no refuge from an administration focused on other domestic priorities.

    Affordability and accessibility cannot improve significantly without an across-the-board rise in federal funding for need-based aid and other proven college pathways. Though the increase to the Pell Grant is commendable, an attitude of compromise – where Bush gives a grant, then takes a grant – eases no worries about the future of accessibility to higher education.

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