President Obama took the occasion of his first State of the Union Speech to outline a plan for his policies going forward. Among the topics that might be interesting to those following higher education in America, the president is calling for a new round of expanding and increasing funding for Pell Grants and other non-debt-related financial aid for deserving college students.
Not only did Obama’s financial stimulus plan include generous funding for educational pursuits, but he has also long been searching for a way to increase the amount of money available to college students through the Pell Grant program and other sources of free money.
Like any item on the president’s agenda, the first step will be to build public support and the toughest step will be to get Congress to go along with the plan. Despite enjoying the nominal support of the majority party, Obama’s speeches and the Democrat’s legislative proposals often seem at odds.
Looking forward, any increase in federal financial aid is likely to face tough opposition due to our current budget situation and the priority legislator’s put on paying back their sponsors & donors. The primary beneficiaries of Pell Grants are the individual students themselves, but there is also a more general gain enjoyed by society as a whole that is hard to turn into support from any particular voting block. Most bills benefit entire economic sectors, or at least specific companies who are active with campaign contributions and lobbying.
Time will tell if these proposed Pell Grant increases will ever go forward – or if the extra assistance for needy students will just increase the rate of inflation in college tuition costs.
In the meantime, students should be sure to complete their FAFSA documentation! Whether or not the amount of money available in grants goes up, you won’t get a penny unless you complete those applications accurately, and soon!