College & Workforce Readiness

Proposal to Shore Up Pell Grant Program Advances on Capitol Hill

By Michelle R. Davis — May 29, 2002 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

After a heated few weeks of debate about who cares more about college students, federal lawmakers have tentatively moved ahead with a plan to shore up the program that helps low-income students pay for higher education.

But the $1 billion added to a supplemental spending bill for fiscal 2002 to offset a shortfall in the Pell Grant program hasn’t erased bitter feelings between Republicans and Democrats. And despite bipartisan agreement to allocate the extra money, details must be ironed out between proposals in the House and the Senate.

The $29.4 billion spending bill was expected to come up for a vote on the House floor late last week. The $1 billion included in the measure for Pell Grants could help erase a $1.3 billion shortfall in the program, which this year provides qualifying students with up to $4,000 for college. A faltering economy and an increased number of students seeking postsecondary education created the deficit. This year’s budget of $10.3 billion fell short despite a 5.7 percent increase over last year’s level. More than 4 million students currently use Pell Grants, according to the Department of Education.

The House bill includes a number of cuts to non-education-related programs to pay for the extra $1 billion. The Senate version, which has not yet made it to the floor, doesn’t provide any offsetting spending cuts. Instead, the Senate version would classify the $1 billion as emergency spending, a designation that would not require cuts elsewhere in the budget.

However, the White House would have to approve the emergency designation, said Larry Zaglaniczny, the director of congressional relations for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, based in Washington."The billion-dollar question is, will the administration do this and, secondly, what are the [House and Senate] conferees going to do in terms of working out this difference in approach?” he said.

Democrats and Republicans last week praised the inclusion of the $1 billion for Pell Grants. Secretary of Education Rod Paige lauded Republican leaders for “ensuring that millions of needy students who depend on Pell Grants ... will not face any decrease.”

President Bush’s fiscal 2003 budget proposal includes about $10.9 billion for Pell Grants, about $400 million lower than this year’s allocation after adding in the extra $1 billion. Even so, the lower amount would be enough to fully fund the program, Education Department officials maintained last week, citing anticipated improvement in the economy, among other factors.

Bruised Feelings

Some Democrats, including Rep. George Miller of California, are still critical of an earlier White House proposal to force students to consolidate college loans under a federally subsidized variable-interest rate, rather than a fixed rate. Though higher education analysts say it would have cost students thousands of dollars, it could have saved the government enough to cover the Pell Grant shortfall. Republicans later dropped that idea.

“The whole experience leaves us concerned about needing to watch carefully what the appropriators and authorizers do with regard to Pell Grants to make sure there really are adequate funds the over the years, " said Daniel Weiss, a spokesman for Rep. Miller, the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

But Republicans say the Democrats revved up partisan debate. And, Democrats didn’t put forward their own education budget, said Dave Schnittger, a spokesman for the GOP majority on the House education panel.

“You have Democrat leaders taking potshots at the president and attempting to distort the record and convince Americans that this president is anti-education,” he said. “That doesn’t serve anyone.”

A version of this article appeared in the May 29, 2002 edition of Education Week as Proposal to Shore Up Pell Grant Program Advances on Capitol Hill


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Academic Integrity in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
As AI writing tools rapidly evolve, learn how to set standards and expectations for your students on their use.
Content provided by Turnitin
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
The Science of Reading: Tools to Build Reading Proficiency
The Science of Reading has taken education by storm. Learn how Dr. Miranda Blount transformed literacy instruction in her state.
Content provided by hand2mind

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Q&A A College Admissions Expert Explains What Going Test-Optional Means for High School Seniors
The movement to test-optional college admissions is helping colleges diversify their enrollments, this expert says.
5 min read
Image of a row of people using computers.
College & Workforce Readiness Spotlight Spotlight on Career-Readiness & Real-World Skills
This Spotlight will help you analyze student interest for in-demand jobs, investigate the benefits of youth apprenticeships, and more.

College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says The High School Credit-Hour: A Timeline of the Carnegie Unit
The credit-hour, often known as the Carnegie unit, has been the essential measure of American secondary and higher education for more than a century. Here's how it started.
4 min read
Shadows of Walla Walla (Wash.) High School seniors waiting to enter graduation are cast on a school wall.
Shadows of Walla Walla (Wash.) High School seniors waiting to enter graduation are cast on a school wall.
Greg Lehman/Walla Walla Union-Bulletin via AP
College & Workforce Readiness The Head of the Carnegie Foundation Wants to Ditch the Carnegie Unit. Here's Why
The group that made credit-hours the high school standard for more than 100 years says it's time for a new metric of student success.
5 min read
Educators with strings tied to each of the clock hands and pulling them in different directions.
iStock/Getty Images Plus