Senate Democrats Advocate to Preserve Pell Funding in 2012

Four Senate Democrats delivered a colloquy on the Senate floor Wednesday advocating against cuts to the Federal Pell Grant program.

"The Pell Grant helps people who can't afford college have the chance to go to college, and it does so without leaving that burden of debt behind," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said.

Whitehouse was accompanied by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who all shared stories from Pell Grant students in their home states. Whitehouse even went on a Pell listening tour in his state, and other senators are considering doing the same.

"As we know from looking at this recession that we're in right now, there are two economies in America, there's the economy for college educated people, an economy in which the top unemployment rate was below 5 percent. And then there's the economy for people who have not had the benefit and the good fortune of a college education, for whom unemployment is nearly twice as high," Whitehouse said. “Cutting Pell Grants, as we face our debt and our deficit problem, would be a wild mistake.”

It currently remains uncertain whether Congress will make cuts to the Pell Grant in the 2012 budget. While the Senate appropriations committee has proposed maintaining the $5,550 maximum grant, the Republican-controlled House Budget Committee blocked the part of the provision that would use 2013 funding to the support the program in fiscal year 2012. 

"When I go back to my state, what I hear is, 'Senator, without Pell Grants, I couldn't make this happen. Senator, without Pell Grants my parents just couldn't afford it,'" Landrieu said. "I know we have to find a way to balance our budget...I know it's hard, but one of things that shouldn't be on the chopping block are Pell Grants, not because it's a government program, we have to cut back government programs, this is the seed corn for our future vitality as a nation."