Bump in Pell Grant funding increases access to higher education

By EOI Policy Intern Tatsuko Go Hollo

Pell Grants logoAmidst all the talk of funding cuts related to the debt ceiling deal, there is something you may not have heard about – a funding increase. Pell Grants, which provide financial aid to low and middle income students seeking higher education, will see a $17 billion increase in funding. While the increase is short-term and doesn’t ensure the program for future budget cycles, this is certainly a bright spot for students who wish to attend higher education programs.

In Washington, students have seen significant community and four year college tuition increases over the past several years. At the University of Washington, the majority of undergrads will see a 20% hike in their 2011-12 tuition. Similarly, undergrads at Washington State University will see a 16% tuition increase. Community colleges are also seeing tuition soar, including a 25% hike over the last two years.

Unfortunately, these increases are largely in response to the $617.5 million hit to higher education over the state’s current budget cycle. As a result, students will not only be paying more for classes, but will also be receiving less state aid as scholarships and work-study opportunities become increasingly scarce.

In light of these local reductions to student access, the recent increase to Pell Grants offers some hope to students who otherwise would not be able to attend higher education programs. Currently, Pell Grants benefit approximately 100,000 students in Washington state, with an increase of 13,000 grantees in 2010. As the need for financial support grows and state funds diminish, it is critical that federal aid continues to keep the door to higher education ajar, for students in Washington and across the country alike.

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