Increases in college financial aid urged
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The government should raise the limits on federal Pell grants and other types of financial aid to help make college more affordable for low-income students, a College Board panel recommended yesterday.
"If we do not turn the national conversation back to investment in education access and away from tax reduction, 'No Child Left Behind' will become just an empty phrase, representing broken promises, broken aspirations and broken dreams," said the group's president, Gaston Caperton.
That year-old education law, championed by President Bush, requires annual testing and gives more control to families with children in poorly performing schools.
Pell grants should cover about $9,700 for the 2002-03 academic year — the average total of tuition, fees and room and board for a student at a four-year college, the panel said. The maximum grant for the 2001-02 school year was $3,750.
"We're a very rich country. We can afford to make college available," said Gary Orfield, co-director of Harvard University's Civil Rights Project and a researcher for the College Board's National Dialogue on Student Financial Aid.
Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., plans to introduce a bill this week that would ultimately increase Pell grant limits to $11,600 in the 2009-10 year.
"This administration talks a good game about education being the road to opportunity and success, but then they refuse to help build the critically important 'on ramps' which in many ways are — and have been — Pell grants," Dodd said in a statement.
States and colleges should ensure that growth in merit-based financial programs does not come at the expense of need-based funding, said the panel of policy-makers, higher-education representatives and business leaders.
The College Board, a New York-based organization best known as owner of the SAT, is a membership association composed of more than 4,200 schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations.