Proposed 2012 budget cuts the Pell Grant program, and reduces educational opportunities for minorities.
By Holly Regan
On September 29, 2011, House Republicans released a budget proposal for the 2012 fiscal year that would dramatically reduce funding for minority-serving colleges and universities, and would block enforcement of two controversial “integrity rules” set by the Department of Education. While less drastic than the changes proposed by the budget released in February, this version would substantially affect the future of current and prospective students.
While the maximum Pell Grant would remain at its current level of $5500, the House proposal would cut $2.3 billion from the program in the upcoming year. The cuts would primarily affect two groups of students: those who attend community colleges, and minorities.
Community college students tend to take longer to graduate, especially if they are transfer students, and many attend school less than half time. With the proposed cuts, those attending school less than half time would no longer be eligible for Pell Grant funding, and grants could only be used for 12 semesters, instead of the current 18.
Minority students would be hit particularly hard by the House Republicans’ proposal. It would eliminate programs for institutions that serve large numbers of African-American, Asian-American/Pacific Islander, Alaskan Native, and Native American students, as well as for tribal colleges. Schools serving significant numbers of Hispanic students would face an 83% cut, and historically black schools would face a 36% cut.
Other blows to students and educational institutions include changes to income protection allowances, and a reduction in the income level that allows students an expected family contribution of zero. All national and community service programs, including AmeriCorps, would be eliminated, as would international/foreign language education programs.
Finally, two of the Department of Education’s “integrity rules” – those that hold institutions accountable for their program representation and that bar compensation for college recruiters – would be blocked.
It is unclear whether this version of the House Republicans’ budget will become law, but what is clear is that the proposed changes will significantly limit future educational opportunities. For the sake of our students, let’s hope this isn’t the last word.