Editorial: Defray costs

Lost in the mess surrounding the omnibus budget bill passed by Congress last month is a provision to rework the formula guiding the distribution of federal Pell grants. Under the new formula, the grants – which provide financial assistance to low-income families to defray the cost of college tuition – would be slashed, and for over 50,000 students, eliminated altogether. Cuts in the grants for those receiving minimum awards are unlikely to affect one’s ability to afford college tuition. By cutting the program, however, Congress shows a lack of resolve in addressing the prohibitive cost of a college education for the nation’s lower and middle classes.

The issue of affordable college education made only a cameo appearance on the campaign trail during the presidential election. While not a marquee issue, the cost of higher education deserves attention from national lawmakers. As the value of an undergraduate degree decreases because of increased competition in the professional job market, the cost of such an education continues to balloon. Increases in tuition routinely exceed the rate of inflation. Congress, with leadership from the president, should develop innovative ways to provide money for a college education through national service programs and other initiatives.

With the relative cost of college increasing at dramatic rates from year to year, it becomes increasingly difficult for lower income families to afford the expense. And while Pell grants may not have been ideal in combating this problem, Congress should not shirk its responsibility to find a more effective way of addressing the issue itself.

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