To the editor:
Congress has finally reauthorized the Higher Education Act that provides federal financial aid to millions of students. Congressional members will now roam the country touting the large increases in federal Pell Grants that are mandated in the legislation. Does this sound familiar?
If you look at the 1998 reauthorization bill, you see similar dramatic increases in the Pell Grant. The allocation was supposed to provide a maximum grant of $4,500 to students in 1999-2000, with the maximum growing to $5,800 by 2003-2004.
The current maximum grant is $4,310. This means the current amount has never even reached the level of year one of the 1998 reauthorization. So much for the promises of that reauthorization.
Now we read that the "mandatory" allocations in the new reauthorization will allow awards to grow by $490 for the next two years to $4,800 maximum, with the maximum reaching $5,400 by 2012-2013.
Read the text of the new reauthorization bill closely. "The amounts specified will be increased or decreased to the extent that funds are available." Since these grant funds must be appropriated, the House and the Senate appropriations committees must actually authorize the money. These funds come from the same pool that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Where do you think most of the dollars will really go?
So, I'll believe the promised Pell Grant increases when I see them appropriated and in the hands of our neediest students.