Congress recently came together during the debt ceiling deal to invest $17 billion into the Pell Grant program, but at a cost of additional debt to some students. Pell Grants were the ONLY program mentioned in the entire debt deal and the bipartisan effort to protect the program is worthy of note.
However, Congress now begins work on the yearly budget and appropriations process and the future of student aid programs remains unclear.
As it stands, House Budget Chairman Ryan's budget is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Preying upon genuine concern for our fiscal future, this budget takes direct aim at student aid programs that help job-seekers get the skills, training, and credentials they need to re-enter the recovering workforce.
Higher education drives economic growth. Eighty percent of the fastest growing jobs in the country demand training above a high school level. Our workforce needs 22 million more degrees by 2018, but we will fall short by three million degrees if we cannot increase graduation rates. Meanwhile, 43 states have already cut funding to higher education, pushing even more of the cost on to students and their families.
If this Congress is serious about job recovery, reducing access to college is the wrong approach. We should be investing in student aid and looking for ways to increase the funding, not cut it, to enable more qualified students to stay in school, graduate, and enter the workforce with the skills that our economy demands.
With more than 13 million Americans unemployed and looking for work, our leaders must be doing all they can to help job-seekers get the skills, training, and credentials they need to re-enter the workforce. Chairman Ryan's FY12 budget must be rejected, along with any budget that cuts student aid.
You can find more information about the Student PIRG higher education project at http://www.uspirg.org/higher-education