Is Pell Too Big?

House Republicans and the Obama administration agree about relatively few matters these days, and it would be a profound exaggeration to say they see eye to eye on Pell Grants. The GOP-led House last month approved a 2011 budget that would cut the size of the maximum grant for low-income students by $845, to $4,705, one of many reasons why President Obama has threatened to veto the measure.

But after two years in which he and Democratic Congressional leaders expanded Pell Grant funding at every turn, the president himself, in the 2012 budget plan he released in February, proposed slashing $8 billion a year from the program by ending a two-year-old practice that allowed students who enroll year-round to get two grants in a single year.

For a Democratic president, especially one who has elevated expanding college access to the top of his agenda, cutting the Pell Grant is practically a sacrilegious act. But the administration’s concession signals a potential turning point in the outlook for the program that for nearly 40 years has served as the bedrock of the federal financial aid system.


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