Dept. of Education receives largest increase in proposed budget

By Sarah Lechner
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
April 16, 2001

While the Department of Education will receive the largest increase of all domestic departments in President George W. Bush’s proposed budget — including a proposed $1 billion toward federal Pell Grants — some groups say the increases in higher education spending are not enough.

If passed, the entire Department of Education budget would receive nearly a 12 percent, $4.6 billion, increase.

“There is nothing more important for the future of this great nation than the education of our children,” Secretary of Education Rod Paige said during a press conference.

Bush’s budget allocates an additional $1 billion for Pell Grants to provide disadvantaged students with financial assistance for higher education. Pell Grants are given to undergraduate students who have not received a bachelor’s or professional degree. Unlike loans, Pell Grants do not have to be repaid.

Some groups say this increase is not enough for students who face the high costs of attending college.

Tracey King, U.S. Public Interest Research Groups’ (PIRG) Higher Education associate said the additional money for Pell Grants is not sufficient considering the ever-increasing cost of a college education.

The increase will give only a maximum of a $100 increase to students, King told U-WIRE in an interview.

The Student Aid Alliance — a coalition of more than 60 student and university groups supporting increased federal funding for financial aid — proposed a $600 increase in individual Pell Grants.

Now the maximum value of a Pell Grant is $3,750. Their increase would bring the maximum value to $4,350.

The Student Aid Alliance also proposed a $100 million increase in Supplemental Grant program funding, from $691 to $791 million.

Bush’s budget also proposed increasing resources for disadvantaged students, including an increase in TRIO and funding to traditionally African-American and Hispanic educational institutions.

“President Bush and I are especially concerned about the deep, persistent and unacceptable gaps in achievement between poor and minority students and their more advantaged peers,” Paige said.

A $50 million increase for TRIO would go toward the improvement of outreach and services for low-income students, enabling them to enroll in and complete a college education, Bush said in his budget proposal.

Federal TRIO programs are outreach programs which target low-income, first-generation college and disabled students.

The budget also seeks to increase funding by 6.4 percent for historically black colleges and universities, black graduate institutions and Hispanic institutions. According to the White House, the president plans to increase funding for these programs 30 percent by 2005.

Michael Cate, the national vice president of the College Democrats of America, said on all levels, Bush is underfunding education.

“I think you could never really address the concerns of higher education enough,” Cate told U-WIRE. “Students should be asking why is he spending so much money on tax break (for the wealthy), when he could be spending more money on aid so middle- and lower-class students can go to college.”

Cate said he believes that Bush could do more for families and students in college.

Bush’s budget also allocates $614 million more for Reading First state grants, $375 million more for state grants for improving teacher quality, and $320 million to develop and implement annual state reading and math performance assessments for students in grades three to eight.

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