The Impact of Rep. Paul Ryan’s Budget on the Pell Grant Program

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By Neil Bomberg, Program Director

I was deeply troubled by the impact House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget plan would have on the Pell Grant program, the federal program that provides needs-based grants to low-income post-secondary students.

Like the cuts proposed to the Workforce Investment Act, the Ryan budget plan would cut deeply into the funding of a program that was developed to provide disadvantaged youth and adults – 10 million per year according to Community College Week — access to the educational resources they need to develop the educational and workforce skills to compete in a 21st century economy.

How ironic when you consider that supporters of the Ryan budget plan say they want every American to have a good job – something that increasingly requires a post-secondary degree – and they want our nation to have the most robust and agile workforce in the world – something that requires a well-educated workforce.

So why does Chairman Ryan want Pell Grant program funding cut? 

Chairman Ryan asserts that Pell Grant funding is on an unsustainable path.  Yet the evidence seems to contradict this.  Costs for the program are projected to decline slightly in fiscal year 2013, and grow at a stable rate over the next ten years, according to the Office of Management and Budget.  And to ensure the stability of the Pell Grant program, Congress last year agreed to cut funding for the program by $56 billion over the next ten years, by reducing or eliminating Pell Grants for working adults and other non-traditional and disadvantaged populations, according to the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce.

What would the impact of the Ryan budget plan be on the Pell Grant program?

If the Ryan budget plan were to become law, the Pell Grant program would be destined to suffer the same funding fate as its cousin, the Workforce Investment Act.  Gradually, and over time, funding for the program would diminish sufficiently to render the program ineffective.  This would have a major impact on America’s workforce.  Sixty-six percent of all job openings between now and 2018 are expected to require at least some form of post-secondary education and training; if more Americans are unable to access post-secondary education, the shortage of workers with post baccalaureate degrees will rise to three million by 2018 according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

What would the impact of the Ryan budget plan be on low-income adults and households?

If a post-secondary degree is the key to a good and well-paying job, those without such a degree would be less likely to be able to find those jobs and support themselves and their families.  In such a scenario these individuals would be more likely to become dependent on private charities and public welfare programs provided by the federal government, states and local governments, including cities and towns, for their survival.