Washington, DC – With so many American families still feeling the effects of our nation’s economic downturn, the Pell Grant program is more important than ever for students struggling to afford a college education. Today, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced a resolution in the Senate to defend the Pell Grant program and make it clear that the program should not be cut in any deficit reduction package. The resolution is cosponsored by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Al Franken (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
“We need to make it clear that we are going to stand up for our kids,” said Whitehouse. “I've met students across Rhode Island who rely on Pell Grants to help them achieve the dream of a college education. This resolution sends a message that we will fight for those students and protect this vital program from irresponsible cuts.”
This year, House Republicans attempted to slash funding for Pell Grants, passing a budget resolution that would have cut grant funding for over a million students by an average of $1,775. Then, near the end of the debt ceiling debate in July, The Hill newspaper reported that some Republican House Members were opposing funding for Pell Grants – with some even calling the program “welfare” for our kids. At the same time, the number of students receiving Pell Grants has increased by 26 percent in recent years, and the purchasing power of these grants has declined. Today, the maximum Pell grant covers 34 percent of the cost of four year public university tuition – down from 72 percent in 1976.
“We've already seen once this year that Republicans are willing to take away vital financial aid for college students. This resolution takes a stand for our most at-need students, who Republicans expect to bear the burden of cost-cutting measures. I will continue working to ensure that Congress funds programs that give promising students the opportunity to succeed,” said Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ).
“We must protect and enhance efforts that help open the door to higher education for all, like Pell grants, which helped send more than 240,000 Ohioans to college in 2008-2009,” said Brown. “The ability to pay shouldn’t prevent our best and brightest from seeking a college education.”
“An educated workforce is key to our country’s future economic prosperity,” said Senator Franken. “I urge my colleagues to reject any cuts to Pell Grant funding. Cutting funding for this program will hurt our children's opportunities today and our economy tomorrow and in the long run.”
“Higher education should be a ticket to personal and professional success, not a ticket to financial debt,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Every student deserves the opportunity to go to college and achieve their full potential, but the high cost of tuition and rising student debt are keeping too many of our students from pursuing their dreams. Protecting Pell Grants will open the doors of higher education to more students, save taxpayer money, and create more opportunities for students to succeed in the new economy.”