Archive for Saturday, January 15, 2005

Bush plan to boost Pell Grants could cut other loans

January 15, 2005


— President Bush proposed on Friday an increase in the government Pell Grants that help lower-income students afford higher education but said he would shave the cost out of a federal student loan program that also provides college aid.

"Pell Grants make it possible for people to go to school who otherwise won't go to school," Bush said in announcing his plans at Florida Community College.

Sharing a stage with Pell Grant recipients, Bush pledged to seek a 12 percent increase in the awards over five years, which would cost $15 billion. That would allow the maximum grant to rise to $4,550 by 2010, from the $4,050 level where the grants have been frozen for three years.

College education expenses have been rising far beyond the nation's inflation levels for years. In 2004, the average in-state tuition at public four-year universities, for instance, rose 10.5 percent to $5,132, according to the College Board. Overall inflation averaged about 2.0 percent from 2001 through 2003.

Pell Grants, the government's primary college aid for lower-income students, are used by 5 million students, who receive from $400 to $4,050 based on need and cost.

Bush's proposal falls short of what he promised during his first presidential campaign. Then, he said he would raise the maximum award to $5,100.

The news: President Bush says he wants to raise the maximum Pell Grant award by $500 over the next five years and fix a persistent shortfall in the nation's chief college aid program.The raise: That would put the maximum grant at $4,550 by 2010, up 12 percent from the $4,050 offered today.The promise: The increase Bush was expected to propose, however, was shy of his 2000 campaign pledge to raise the maximum award to $5,100. It's been stuck at $4,050 for three years.

The president also said his budget for the financial year starting Oct. 1, which he will present to Congress next month, would cover the Pell Grant program's $4.3 billion deficit. The shortfall has developed from a surge in demand and a rule that eligible students must receive grant money they are entitled to regardless of congressional appropriations.

Bush said he would pay for both the higher grant limits and the deficit payoff with changes in the government's student loan programs.

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