The Republican-led proposal would put educational access and advancement out of reach for millions of prospective Black students. $900 million in cuts would mean dumping 1 million students from the program within the next five years — half of whom could be kicked out before the end of this school year. The plan would also shrink the size of the award for many current recipients.2
The entire 2012 budget is under negotiation and Congress must vote by next Friday to avoid a potential government shut down. This debate is about funding priorities, and important programs like Pell will be cut unless enough members of Congress stand up to support education. Our elected officials should be working to expand opportunities for economic growth, not decimating higher education programs that help put low-income students and students of color in good jobs. Please call on members of the House of Representatives, where Republicans pose the biggest threat to Pell Grants, to vote down any attempts to cut or restrict the program:
Tuition and fees at colleges and universities continue to skyrocket, increasing more than 400% since 1982 — more than 4 times the rate of inflation.3Access to a good education dramatically increases a person’s chances for solid employment and pay. Young adults with a college degree are nearly 3 times more likely to be employed, and earn almost twice as much as those with just a high school diploma.
Defunding Pell Grants will hit Black and low-income students the hardest. Nearly half of Black undergraduates rely on Pell Grants to attend school, and families with incomes below $40,000 constitute 90% of awardees.4 Republicans have used racially-charged language as part of their attack on Pell. One Congressman called Pell “the welfare of the 21st century.”5
Of course, Pell isn’t welfare. In fact, the average grant size is much less likely to cover a sizable amount of college tuition costs than when the program began 40 years ago. Back then, Pell covered 100% of the average cost of tuition while today’s maximum Pell award generally covers one-third.6
Pell Grants are a cornerstone of our nation’s student aid program and greatly influence the makeup of our nation’s colleges and universities, providing much-needed racial and economic diversity within the overall student population. Tell Congress to fund higher education, and when you do, ask your friends and family to do the same.
Thanks and Peace,
— Rashad, James, Gabriel, Dani, Matt, Natasha and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
December 10th, 2011
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1. “House Budget Committee Is Searching for Excuses to Cut Pell Grants,” Center for American Progress, 11-15-2011
2. “Fight for Social Programs Looms Anew in the House,” New York Times, 10-03-2011
3. “Is college still worth the price?” CNN Money, 04-13-2009
4. “Pell Grants: The Cornerstone of African-American Higher Education,” Journal of Blacks in Higher Education
5. “Rep. Denny Rehberg: Pell Grants Are Becoming ‘The Welfare Of The 21st Century’,” Huffington Post, 04-01-2011
6. “Infographic: A History of the Shrinking Pell Grant,” Campus Progress, 05-23-2011