Another good government program: Pell grants

WASHINGTON — The United States used to be among the world’s leaders in educating its citizenry.  After World War II, Americans completed college at higher rates than most other countries as returning soldiers used the GI bill to pay tuition.

My father was among the veterans who completed college with Uncle Sam’s assistance, a beneficiary of a farsighted federal government that understood boosting college attainment was good for the country. That cohort of college boys helped to lead a prolonged period of national prosperity. They fostered educational achievement in their children, who often completed college, as well.

College assistance was also a signal accomplishment of the Eisenhower administration, which spent millions on education after the Soviets launched Sputnik. Among other things, Eisenhower created a loan program to help students pay college costs.

But somewhere along the way, the nation lost its focus on pushing educational achievement. We became complacent while developing nations rightly decided that college attainment would help them achieve economic growth. Just 39 percent of American adults have an associate’s degree or higher, compared with 55 percent for Canada and 54 percent for Japan.

The U.S. now ranks 6th in the percentage of adults ages 18-24 who are enrolled in college — behind, among others, Hungary and Poland.

Even worse, the U.S. ranks 15th in college completion rates, a figure that President Obama cites often and has vowed to improve.

In a speech last year, Obama called the nation’s failure to boost academic achievement a “prescription for economic decline. . . That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

Congress has just made a down payment on that promise. Added to amendments to health care legislation — and largely overshadowed by the spectacle accompanying that debate — a student loan overhaul will add billions in funding for Pell grants, which help pay college costs for about six million students.

“This is an amazing opportunity” to help more students attend college, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.

Pell grants, started in 1973, have long been popular and well-used — a significant source of funds for students without the means to pay for college. During the 1970s and ‘80s, the grants, which don’t have to be re-paid, helped many students become the first in their families to obtain four-year college degrees.

But as college costs soared over the last two decades, Pell grants didn’t keep pace. The grants once covered about two-thirds of the costs of a public university; now, they cover only about a third.

Higher-education experts have long pointed to steep costs as one of the reasons that so few students manage to finish college in four or five years. Even community college costs have risen, forcing some students to drop out before they can complete a two-degree.

With the Georgia Legislature threatening budget cuts that could lead to steep tuition increases at the state’s public colleges and universities, those increased Pell grants could help some Georgia students stay in school.

The restoration of Pell grants not only helps prepare a future workforce, but the measure also ameliorates the growing income inequality that threatens to make the U.S. a deeply class-stratified society. By assisting working-class students with college tuition costs, the Pell grants give them the boost that affluent kids get from their well-heeled parents.

Predictably, the student loan overhaul had its critics. The private- lending lobby inundated Capitol Hill with its representatives. Several Republicans and a few Democrats claimed a “government takeover.” It’s nothing of the sort.

In 1965, the federal government wanted to make more student loans available, so it created incentives for private lenders — giving them subsidies and assuming the risks for re-payment. But private lenders abused the process, charging high fees and paying off colleges to steer students their way.

By 1992, when former President Bill Clinton started streamlining the loan program, the federal government was spending $6 billion a year for $15 billion in loans. The new legislation eliminates the subsidies to private lenders, freeing up $9 billion annually for a better use.

That’s change we can believe in.

56 comments Add your comment

Granny Godzilla

March 29th, 2010
4:30 pm

More great news.

Obama had a hell of a week last week didn’t he?

DeKalb Conservative

March 29th, 2010
4:38 pm

Glad it had a Clinton reference. The grants where replaced in favor of loans under Clinton. I noticed this column on Sunday. The 18-24 age bracket confused me dramatically because students should be graduated from a 4 year institution by age 21, or 22.

The fact is the U.S. still leads the world in education. However, it is the schools that are the leaders, not the students. There a many great minds in our colleges today, however the number of them that are American have greatly diminished since the GI Bill passed after WWII. Converting the great minds into citizens should be a priority. These are the immigrants so many in this country want. These are the immigrants that this country needs.

Jess

March 29th, 2010
4:44 pm

Here’s an idea. Why don’t kids who want to go to college study harder and get the grades necessary for a HOPE scholarship. Since a large number of students with HOPE grants now fail out, it stands to reason that those who cannot qualify for HOPE may fail out as well.

Alex Hamilton

March 29th, 2010
4:47 pm

Another feel good editorial divorced from reality. The bill makes even a smaller down payment on making college more affordable than required by 1990s mortgages.

Granny Godzilla

March 29th, 2010
4:47 pm

Jess

Hope is GA only.

jconservative

March 29th, 2010
4:52 pm

I have always considered college education to be a national defense measure. Without an educated populace the USA is doomed to wither on the vine. Getting as many people as possible a college education is more important than a new bomber or a new tank.

Historically we have always used public money to educate our officer corps. We still do that. Money spent on education is the best money we spend. If one has a C coming out of high school I say send them to college on a US grant. They will pay us back in taxes, for they will earn more, and pay more taxes, than the person flipping burgers.

Granny Godzilla

March 29th, 2010
4:58 pm

DeKalb Conservative

Actually the best would be Finland.

Best in our Nation are the schools run on military bases.

arnold

March 29th, 2010
5:00 pm

Isn’t education now considered elitist? Tea Baggers and conservatives can’t have elitists.

collegeloanconsultant

March 29th, 2010
5:01 pm

What a Pell grant is supposed to be is seed money or baseline support. Schools and states were supposed to contribute as much or more aid to bring a Pell student’s funding up to the point where college was affordable. The federal grant was never supposed to bear the whole burden of this. This legislation does nothing to insist that schools and states bear their share of the burden, too.

DeKalb Conservative

March 29th, 2010
5:16 pm

@ Granny Godzilla – you’ll have to educate me on this one. How are you basing Finland are being the best? Just curious what criteria you’re using.

DeKalb Conservative

March 29th, 2010
5:20 pm

@ arnold – certain education is elitist, specifically education that has no earning potential. Alot of the liberal arts are laughed by by the sex move / political ideology you refer to as tea baggers.

Tea party folks have alot of respect for education when it comes in the form of business, engineering and certain sciences. In general they don’t have alot of use for fields of studies that produce intellectuals, nor do they care alot for lawyers (exception constitutional lawyers and a few other types).

Bicyle

March 29th, 2010
5:43 pm

The more money you give someone or loan someone at adjusted low rates, the higher the price for that entity. Kinda like the housing boom. The cheaper the money, the higher the price. The more assistance for education, the higher the price. No one is being helped in this scam.

Bicyle

March 29th, 2010
5:44 pm

Working-Class families can make it happen and will appreciate it that much more. I wonder how many Pell Grant recipients don’t graduate. All the Pell Grant recipients I went to school with were slackers.

blutto

March 29th, 2010
5:46 pm

“But somewhere along the way, the nation lost its focus on pushing educational achievement.”

Amazingly, that “somewhere along the way” coincides precisely with the creation of Jimmy Carter’s Department of Education where the student gets top priority except for the union leaders, bureaucrats, administrators, inept teachers and other assorted hangers on.

Joel

March 29th, 2010
6:14 pm

Do people not work through college anymore?

kayaker 71

March 29th, 2010
6:47 pm

Let’s take it a little closer to home. The Univ of GA was dead last in SE Conference statistics with 60% of their football athletes not graduating after 6yrs of college attendance. The basket ball team was much worse with only 9% graduating in a 6 yr program. A big difference was the 75% of female BB players graduating.
The big colleges are still recruiting first rate football and basketball athletes. They play on college teams with the idea that all of them will be, in some way, eligible for the NBA or Pro Football draft. A very small percentage of them make the draft and fewer are selected.
That leaves a student without an education, drafted by some college to play athletics, the school makes the big bucks in TV rights to the games, and when the student doesn’t perform well enough for the pro draft, he is kicked aside, without an education and left on his own. Now that’s an education system that we can all believe in.

Old Man

March 29th, 2010
7:01 pm

Best way to get an education is to work your way through. I did, and highly recommend it!

Peadawg

March 29th, 2010
7:19 pm

“That’s change we can believe in.”

Better late than never, huh?

Hey Cynthia, you mind taking my other ip address off your block list? I won’t tell anymore Alabama jokes.

Peadawg

March 29th, 2010
7:22 pm

“Do people not work through college anymore?”

They work but it doesn’t pay for it all. You can’t graduate college these days w/out a student loan/grant or mommy and daddy’s money.

Scout

March 29th, 2010
7:24 pm

Ms. Tucker:

You are only hitting the tip of the iceberg. There is NOTHING the federal government is not involved in …………. how about this one:

Headline: Feds Remove Cats from North Georgia Park
Published : Monday, 29 Mar 2010, 5:44 PM EDT

CUMMING, Ga. (AP) – “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, trying to eliminate what it considers a threat to wildlife, has begun removing feral cats from Lake Lanier’s West Bank Park in Forsyth County.”

Here kitty, kitty …………. come to Uncle Sammy !!

tm

March 29th, 2010
7:47 pm

“The new legislation eliminates the subsidies to private lenders, freeing up $9 billion annually for a better use.”

stop with the lie that the take over of the student loan program will free up any money for students. It has a\ready been spent. The savings was used by the CBO and Obama to hide the real costs of the heath care bill.. So th e 9 billion has already been spent by Obama and our students do not get to benefit from the real savings..

jt

March 29th, 2010
8:32 pm

Basically, this just makes it harder to get a college education without owing the Feds.

Not a tax. A “user fee”.

Thank you sir. Can I have another.

Drifter

March 29th, 2010
8:34 pm

Seventy-seven percent of Pell Grant recipients work, so that isn’t a real issue. This may very well be one of the few government programs that provides an actual monetary return on investment.

dlt

March 29th, 2010
9:06 pm

I worked my way through college. Did not have or need a grant. And I did not have two nickels to rub together most of the time. Yep it was tough (and at times I felt like a professional student) but I finished it. And I think if the desire is there then so can anyone. But I do admit that college is much more expensive now. Whew!

Thinking in economic terms, I do not think throwing more taxpayer money at the problem is the solution. Because this puts more demand on the colleges (as number of students increase so does cost). So what good has the grant done for future students that will face even higher cost because of it?

If you want to truly lower cost then you need to increase supply. More colleges? When there’s competition then there are competitive prices and lower costs.

MrLiberty

March 29th, 2010
9:22 pm

Its amazing that lovers of free giveaways just can’t seem to see their ill effects – or just choose to ignore them.

Anytime you distort the marketplace with government intervention you create distortions that ultimately cause more harm. First there were Pell Grants – money stolen from some to give to others. Then government guaranteed student loans – money printed out of thin air and given to banks to loan to folks who were less than credit-worthy. Then things like the HOPE scholarship – money taken from unsuspecting poor people on the hope that they might win big and raise themselves out of poverty and given to mostly middle class folks so their kids could go to college. Meanwhile the poor just get poorer and poorer.

In every case, the presence of money that has no place being there, further allows the universities and colleges to be able to get their tuition in comfort, knowing that the extra profits they seek for the year in tuition hikes will easily be covered by the benevolent hand of government. Rather than the typical downward pressure they SHOULD be feeling from the market, the money just flows.

A chart of college tuition costs over time would clealy show the significant rise in costs that have occurred since first the Pell Grants, then the introduction of the guaranteed student loan (probably the worst thing government ever did) and then here in GA with the HOPE.

It is one thing to want to help kids get an education, but in doing so, government and its benevolent hand that steals from one group for the benefit of another, has really just transferred the money from the middle class to the university professors, administration, and sports teams. But maybe that was the plan all along.

If the government stopped taking so much money from the citizens in taxes, they would all have more to donate to assist with scholarship programs (private) at the university level or from private groups. At least when the donations are voluntary, nobody can “count” on them and plan for the increased revenue with increased spending as now occurs.

War Eagle

March 29th, 2010
9:24 pm

Most Pell grants are not paid back or put on hold for collection, just another item for taxpayers to shove out money for NO return.

kayaker 71

March 29th, 2010
9:26 pm

One of Cynthia Tucker’s past rants centered around the inadequate number of black students that were admitted to UGA. Her main point was that they were not given the chance at admission that was equal to the percentage of the black students in the community. The statistics didn’t equal her concern. Less than 50% of black students admitted graduated, even those who stayed 6 yrs. The big argument at the time was that they were taking up a space that another student could use and we were wasting Hope money on those who thought that learning and good grades was a honkey kind of thing. The graduation rate for black males is still no higher than 35% nationwide in integrated schools and that is an improvement from 28% in 1998. The rates were even lower with those who were given Pell grants. So it isn’t just the athletes….. it seems to remain pervasive in the system. John McWhorter, a black linguistics professor at Berkley characterizes his black students as persons with little or no interest, as a rule, in getting an education, especially those whose fees and tuition were paid for them. In his book, “Losing the Race”, he continually expresses his frustration at the lack of ambition and hard work required to get a degree, especially at Berkley, whose admission standards are higher than at any other California university.
Bottom line, he feels that we are wasting our money on a good percentage of black students that seek a higher education. With Pell grants being given out like free rides now to those “unfortunate” students who couldn’t go to college any other way, the percentage of graduation will no doubt go lower than 35%. And we call this education funding.

Scout

March 29th, 2010
9:35 pm

dlt:

I worked my way through college by working the midnight shift on the railroad. I also had a little V.A. assistance that I had “earned” as well. My last year my wife worked and helped me financially.

Bottom line, if you ask me …………. going to college full time as just a “student” is a waste of time, experience and education. Our whole college system needs to be re-vamped. Students should have to co-op or work on or off campus. Most college has become just a party extension of high school and a waste of much of the taxpayer’s money.

BADA BING

March 29th, 2010
9:36 pm

You people amaze me. If you cannot afford to go to college, you don’t go. There is no Constitutional or God given right to an education. If that is your choice, YOU have to pay for it. Work your way through. What is next, someone to do the studying for you so you don’t have to exert yourself?

kayaker 71

March 29th, 2010
9:48 pm

We need an educated youth. Without this, we are doomed to continually placing next to last on the science and math achievement scores with other nations. When they throw 16.5K/yr/student in Washington DC schools and still see a system that is almost as bad as Chicago (second to dead last in the nation), something is wrong. Bozo’s idea centers around admitting more students, expanding more openings in Universities and granting the money for them to be there. This is the same old song and dance that has never worked and never will. Just placing a disadvantaged student in a classroom has not proven effective and has proven to be a waste of money. Now, when Pell grants will be given out by the government like free tickets to a football game, the problem cannot get any better.

Scout

March 29th, 2010
10:03 pm

BADA BING:

You hit the nail on the head. But the liberals on this post will still probably make you clean the chalkboard after class.

Tall

March 29th, 2010
10:13 pm

I took a different route to get through college that should still work today. After finishing high school in New York State, I wanted to graduate from a private college instead of from the S.U.N.Y. system. My folks said fine, but they couldn’t afford it. My choices were a S.U.N.Y. school or two years at the Community College in my county and then a transfer to a four year school. It wasn’t my to liking,but I went to the community college and followed the curriculums of the private schools I was interested in. My only complaint about the community college was the attitude of many of the slacker students who went there. Most of them were just wasting their time and taxdollars. I couldn’t believe how immature, undisciplined and unfocused most of them were. Yes, it was a community college, but have some pride. My last semester at the CC was spent in night courses. The older students who were going back were much better to be with. They had a goal in mind.

I stayed focused and graduated with a high enough g.p.a. to transfer to a very good private universtiy.
The two courses I had to repeat at the university were better at the community college and much cheaper. At that time – 1981- I was able to graduate with an undergraduate degree from a good school, without much student debt. I don’t see what that can’t work today. Your first two years in college are mainly spent taking liberal arts courses taught by adjunct professors anyway, why pay up? The best way to bring college tuitions down would be to eliminate many of these programs.
A college education is now another entitlement.

Drifter

March 29th, 2010
10:16 pm

Are we putting guns to people’s heads to make them buy lottery tickets? When you make an absurd argument like that, people will dismiss the rest of your points too…guilt by association.

BADA BING

March 29th, 2010
11:04 pm

Make people pay for their college education. Then guess what, you have people who are not only educated, but are RESPONSIBLE adults.

Bluto

March 29th, 2010
11:21 pm

“What the heck happened to the America I used to know? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts, huh? “Ooh, we’re afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble.” Well just kiss my @$$ from now on! Not me! I’m not gonna take this. C-Tran, he’s a dead man! Social Security dead! Medicare…”

OTTER

March 29th, 2010
11:27 pm

Don’t stop him, he’s on a roll.

LatinTeacher

March 29th, 2010
11:27 pm

Hey Cynthia, what do you have against Poles and Hungarians? I thought you liberals wanted the US to be the new Europe!

Joel Edge

March 30th, 2010
6:03 am

“The restoration of Pell grants not only helps prepare a future workforce”
Yep, everybody can get educated up and then report for their job at the local McDonalds. After the government gets through taxing and regulating all of the jobs out of the country.

TnGelding

March 30th, 2010
6:52 am

Maybe that $9 billion shouldn’t be spent, period, until we get our house in order.

But “somewhere along the way” parents began abdicating their financial responsibility to get their children through college. After all, they have 18 years to save for it.

The Obama changes wil help, but don’t go far enough. In a country this wealthy students that can make the grade need to be educated at public expense, since apparently most parents won’t pay for it any more. The student loans hurt our economy in the long run because the tremendous debt keeps graduates from purchasing cars and homes, and makes their lives miserable with the related stress.

jt

March 30th, 2010
6:57 am

Hey CT–

Kyle has an example of ANOTHER good government program.

Captain Chaos

March 30th, 2010
7:13 am

Of course “most Pell grants are never paid back”. The fact that you don’t pay grants back might have something to do with that. What I want to know is, who are the people paying them back at all?

Captain Chaos

March 30th, 2010
7:17 am

What they need to do is crack down on rich kids committing fraud and lying about their parents income to claim the Pell grant even when they make too much money. I knew a girl at UGA who bragged about getting her Pell grant check every quarter even though her father was a professor at UGA and made over $130,000 a year. What a thief.

Jimmy62

March 30th, 2010
7:36 am

Perhaps, Cynthia, the Pell Grant has made it too easy to get in to college. And that has made too many kids complacent in both high school and college. Perhaps the lower level of knowledge exhibited by graduates today is in part a result of the ease of paying for college through the Pell grant. Too many students who are just there to get degrees and jobs, and not to work and learn, devalue the entire system.

I’d be happy if 100% of citizens got college degrees, but only if they work for them, and aren’t given them through Pell grants and grade inflation. There are other ways to get to school for free or cheap for those who work at it.

jim in Jackson

March 30th, 2010
7:54 am

Pell grants do not have to be paid back.Hope grants cover the first two years, and come from revenues from the lotteries,not taxes.The current escalation in tuition is due to the recession and hopefully will diminish when sufficient jobs are created and more people share in paying taxes.One initiative of the new education program is to increase the number of community colleges so students can save money on the non-major portion of their Four years.Because of the decimation of the middle class due to preferential tax credits to the rich,the majority of students depend on pell grants,student loans,and outside jobs to secure an education.The rich have always tried to suppress education of the lower classes.It’s easier to coerce and brainwash a person who is illiterate and hold them in jobs with no future like mills,coal mines and manual labor in general.I am the son,grandson, and nephew of a coal miners.Three of my four children have degrees, the other went to the Army and is now working on his.My two daughter-in-laws also have BA’s.We owe over $250,000 in student loans and are paying on them with high interest rates because the banks controlled the process.My youngest daughter had a Gymnastics scholarship for 2/3 of the cost and she works 1-3 jobs at a time while she works on her Phd in Sports Psychology.The standards are about to be raised.A “C” average is still required for pell grants and scholarships.That should weed out most slackers.My father had a 3rd grade education.All but one in my family has degrees.I expect even more from my grandchildren.Each generation gets better than the last. that’s the American way.

jim in Jackson

March 30th, 2010
8:04 am

In India college is free. That’s why you see so many Indians with degrees. The same is true foe many other countries. 63 years ago when I started school the government paid for 12 years of school.At that time you didn’t need a diploma for most jobs.Now you are expected to have at least an AA degree for most jobs of any consequence so it would dictate that school should extent from 12 to 14 years. Unfortunately that will never happen due to the cost factor which would raise more taxes.Sounds good in theory though.

ctucker

March 30th, 2010
8:16 am

Jimmy62, Pell grants don’t have anything to do with college admissions. The grants just reduce the financial burden a bit once you are admitted

SG

March 30th, 2010
8:22 am

I think people should realise that government involvement is not really increased a lot – the tax payer money that was earlier spent on subsidies for banks is now reallocated and used for direct financial aid.

At least that’s what I think it’s doing – I could be wrong….

Tall

March 30th, 2010
10:00 am

Drifter at 10:16pm 3/29: I presume your comments are for my post. I’m not getting your drift. Why is my argument absurd? Colleges have no incentive to reduce costs when there are programs like the Pell Grants. Why should they?

VoiceOfExperiance

March 30th, 2010
10:41 am

I am reminded of the Dilbert cartoon where the pointy haired boss unveils a new office building saying something to the effect of “An architectural miracle” to which the intern promptly starts thinking “No storage space!”

In this case when you feed fuel to a fire ( more money being shoveled into an inflated cost structured system which is higher education ) you are going to get… wait for it… a bigger fire. Since students no longer will feel the pain of trying to figure out how they can afford to get a higher education, they will effectively stop caring about what it costs. Consequently if you thought cost went up before, well…

Look believe it or not all costs ultimately are based on a supply and demand graph. The only reason there is little to no inflation right now is a testament to that.

Look… in the end this will not ’save’ any money. It more then likely will not help many others graduate to any greater degree either, it will however create a whole lot more drop outs ;-)

But since this is now a law all we can do is watch and wait and soon the question will become, so why isn’t this helping. rather then accept responsibility people will continue to shrug it off.

Whatever

March 30th, 2010
11:32 am

jim in Jackson – You are clueless!

India needs 800 more universities: Sibal
New Delhi, March 24 (IANS):

India needs at least 800 more universities in addition to its current number of 480 to boost higher education, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said Wednesday.

“Currently the gross enrolment ratio (GER) in India is 12.4 percent, and we intend to take it to 30 percent in the next few years,” Sibal said at an education conference organised by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

This means, he said, only 12.4 students from every 100 students eligible are pursuing higher education in India. The effort is to take this tally to at least 30 for every 100 students in the age group of 18 to 24.

“For this, there is a need for 800 more universities and 35,000 more colleges,” he said.
The minister said India was far behind the global average of GER, which is 23 percent.
“In developed countries, it is above 40 percent. In some countries it is 53 percent,” he said, adding that for economies growing at 8-9 percent per annum the demand for quality manpower is high.

Unless there is a huge pool of qualified human resource, there will be “mismatch between economy and the potential that serve the economy”, he said.
This is the first ever contact group meeting of parliamentarians on education organised by the Unesco for countries like India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.