Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Welfare, Pell Grant Issues Spark Partisan Battles; Bush Administration Turning `Blind Eye' to College Affordability, Critics Say. (Washington Update)

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Welfare, Pell Grant Issues Spark Partisan Battles; Bush Administration Turning `Blind Eye' to College Affordability, Critics Say. (Washington Update)

Article excerpt

With fall congressional elections less than six months away, partisan bickering is back in full force on Capitol Hill on issues ranging from Pell Grants to education for welfare recipients.

"The Bush administration has turned a blind eye to college affordability," Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said as Democrats unveiled a new study showing how the Bush education budget would short-change needy students and prevent some from attending college.

Miller, senior Democrat on the House education committee, says the Bush administration's proposed freeze in the maximum Pell Grant means the government would serve fewer students after factoring in the effects of inflation. About 375,000 fewer students would receive financial aid because of the freeze, he says.

The Bush administration is proposing to maintain the maximum Pell Grant at $4,000. But the Congressional Budget Office says the maximum grant would have to increase by at least $200 for the program to keep pace with rising college costs.

"As a result of state budget cuts, students are facing the largest tuition hikes in recent history," says Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. "At the same time, the Bush administration has short-changed Pell Grants and other programs to help low and middle-income students afford college."

In the study, "Slamming Shut the Doors to College," congressional Democrats assert that states are slashing higher education budgets by about $5.5 billion because of the economic downturn. Yet the Bush budget does little to support those students, they say.

Bush administration officials reacted sharply to the criticism. "It's deeply troubling to me that after a year of strong bipartisan support for education--including the largest increases ever for our K-12 schools and our colleges and universities--some are resorting to petty politics to mislead the American people about this administration's support for our college students and their families," says Education Secretary Dr. Roderick Paige.

The maximum Pell Grant has increased by 21 percent during the past two years as a result of bipartisan cooperation, he says. Yet he also faulted Congress for raising Pell Grant funding without figuring out how to pay for the increases. …

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