New England Council Urges Congress to Fund Pell Grant Program

Regional business group says access to higher education critical to New England economy

BOSTON (April 11, 2011) – The New England Council, a non-partisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth, 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, the Council outlined the critical need for federal financial aid funding and the impact that such funding has on the regional economy.

“In order for New England to compete in the increasingly global economy, it is critical that we have a dynamic and highly-skilled workforce,” said James T. Brett, President & CEO of the New England Council.  “A 21st century college education comes with a huge price tag, and so many families are already struggling to make ends meet in the current economy.  We certainly appreciate the need to tackle the federal deficit, but cutting support for higher education will only further harm our 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. The total amount of Pell Grant funding awarded to students in New England during the 2010-2011 school year was approximately $914 million, with over 266,000 students receiving funds.

“For more than 40 years, the Pell Grant Program has enabled thousands of students in New England to acquire the skills they need to compete in today’s global economy,” said Dr. Paula Rooney, President of Dean College and Co-Chair of the New England Council’s Higher Education Policy Committee.  “Cuts to Pell Grant funding will defer the completion of their degree for some students, and may require colleges and universities to impose budget cuts, with possible faculty and staff reductions, to fund institutional financial aid programs to assist students and their families.”

For more information on the New England Council’s work on financial aid and other higher education issues, please visit the Education & Workforce section of our website.

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