The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) applauds the decision of our nation’s leaders to pass the Budget Control Act of 2011, which ends a weeks-long stalemate over our nation’s fiscal future. The legislation maintains America’s promise of education for all by preserving the federal Pell Grant program. As we acknowledge this important victory, we move forward with caution recognizing that we may have only won this battle, not the war.
Nearly 9 million students rely on federal Pell Grants to help pay for college, and that number is expected to increase in the coming years. The projected enrollment growth will undoubtedly lead to increased program costs, thereby keeping Pell Grant funding at the center of more budget debates. While several opponents may argue that program costs need to be reduced, we believe that the education of deserving students should not be a discretionary item subjected to budget cuts. In fact, it would be unwise to cut the program, especially at a time when our nation needs more college-educated workers.
As we acknowledge the passage of this legislation, and celebrate the protection of the Pell Grant, it is important that we remember that the fight does not end today. Until all of our nation’s leaders recognize the critical role that the education of ALL Americans play in job training and economic growth, our future is at risk. Although it should be obvious that a stronger economy with more educated workers is a prominent path to reducing the deficit, the recent debates have shown that is not the case.
We believe the entire higher education community must continue to reinforce this message and ensure that important levers to promote college access and success—such as the Pell Grant and other forms of financial aid—are not compromised in future policy talks.