The maximum Pell Grant of $5,550 survived the recent budget deal in Congress, but year-round Pell Grants were scrapped, and the question for next year’s budget appears to be not whether—but how—to cut the federal aid program for low-income college students.
The Pell Grant program has exploded in recent years, from $14 billion in 2007 to a proposed $41 billion in 2012, as students return to school in the down economy.
Recognizing the growing acceptance of the belief that the Pell program may not be sustainable at current levels, a group of education policy experts is calling for changes to reduce costs and target students most likely to benefit from aid.
Among their recommendations:
• Require students to enroll in 15 credit hours a semester to qualify for a full-time Pell Grant, up from 12 hours now;
• Limit years of eligibility to six or eight, rather than 18 full-time semesters, to “provide a clear signal that the program is not designed to subsidize students indefinitely”;
• Adjust how the expected family contribution is calculated, to target students with the greatest need; and
• Restrict the grants for students enrolled in institutions with weak records of student success.
The letter was signed by Sandy Baum of George Washington University; Susan Dynarski of the University of Michigan; consultant Arthur Hauptman; economist Bridget Terry Long of Harvard University; Michael McPherson of the Spencer Foundation; Judith Scott-Clayton of Teachers College, Columbia University; and Sarah Turner of the University of Virginia.
A version of this article appeared in the April 27, 2011 edition of Education Week as Experts Take On Pell Grant Costs