Maximum Pell Safe For Now

As details emerged early Tuesday morning about the last-minute spending compromise that averted a government shutdown, higher education experts shared one reaction: It could have been worse.

The deal funds the federal government for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year, cutting $38.5 billion from current spending levels. The compromise, which has yet to be approved by Congress but appears likely to pass, would end year-round Pell Grants that aimed to help students complete college faster and would shave $20 million each from TRIO and GEAR UP, two federal programs that prepare low-income students for college, as well as cut $260 million from the National Institutes of Health.

House Republicans had wanted to cut even more: H.R. 1, their spending proposal for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year, would have slashed the budgets for Pell Grants and scientific research as part of $61 billion in cuts. In the final compromise, the maximum Pell Grant amount stayed at $5,550, a priority for President Obama, and deep cuts to health and energy research were largely averted.

“Given the deep and truly harmful cuts that were contained in the House bill, they came out at a reasonable place,” said Barry Toiv, vice president for public affairs at the Association of American Universities. “It’s clear they decided that while it’s important to cut spending, it has to be done in a smart way.”

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