The New England Council, through its Higher Education Policy Committee, is urging Congress to continue to fund the Pell Grant program to ensure that the region has a highly-skilled and innovative workforce. In a letter sent to each member of the New England Congressional delegation late last week, the Council outlined the critical need for federal financial aid funding and the impact that such funding has on the regional economy.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has proposed returning all non-security spending to 2008 levels in his Fiscal Year 2012 budget plan, which would cut more than $5.5 billion from the Pell Grant Program. Even if current funding levels are maintained, almost 9 million students stand to lose over 15 percent of their expected award for the 2011-2012 school year.
In its letter, the New England Council notes that the Pell Grant was originally intended to cover 75 percent of the cost of attending college for low- and moderate-income students. Yet today, the maximum award level covers only one-third of the cost of a four-year degree, and only 22 percent of Pell recipient receive that amount. The average award during the 2010-2011 academic year was $3,433, which covers less than a quarter of the average tuition and fees at public universities.