Pell Grants vital to state's future

Aug 11, 2011 Issues: Education

The Pell Grant program was designed three decades ago to improve college access for low-income students.

It provides a vital resource to help more than 20,000 students in Oakland and Macomb counties attend college even as families continue to recover from the economic downturn.

The facts counter a Detroit News editorial that buys into the false argument that the program has fed tuition inflation ("Feds should put brakes on Pell Grants," Aug. 5). Thirty years ago, the maximum Pell award equaled three-quarters of the cost of attendance at a four-year public institution. Today, the figure is one-third.

Last year, Congress restructured the program to remove the middle man — the private lender — to save an estimated $67 billion over the next decade. Approximately $20 billion was directed toward reducing the federal deficit, with the remainder used toward increased Pell Grants so that the neediest students could afford a college education.

The maximum Pell award is now $5,550, and for an estimated 20 percent to 40 percent of Pell recipients; this is the make or break factor in their decision to attend college.

In Michigan, our future is tied to transforming our economy and enhancing the educational opportunities required of the jobs of the future is essential. We should be investing more, not less, in our students.