The Bottom Line: Pell Grants: Invest in students’ future, see positive return

Reubin BW new titleBy Reubin Turner
City Editor

For years, education has been a tool the underprivileged have used to improve their socio-economic statuses. Whether it was an underdeveloped country that used it to converge, as economists say, or a business CEO who used it work his way up from the copy boy to the company’s chief executive, it’s undoubtedly a powerful weapon that can be used to change situations, and the world.

This is one of the reasons Congress gives financial assistance to those attending colleges and universities across the country who do not have the financial means to  support themselves. Through Pell Grants, Stafford Loans and other initiatives, the government places a premium on the value of education in the country, and realizes  that the externalities education poses are immeasurable.  Thus it is disheartening to see that, despite financial aid’s importance, Congress is now attempting to freeze maximum Pell Grant awards at their current value of $5,775.

This comes after a proposal by President Barack Obama to increase the funding for the program of $30 billion over the next 10 years. Obama said this increase in Pell Grant awards should continue to be tied to inflation in the future.

Although those against the bill have not given an exact answer as to why they oppose it, it’s probably safe to assume much of it has to do with the increase in spending.  Lawmakers should be cognizant of the fact, however, that education is an investment, one that has a high probability of  yielding a hefty return.

For most to be productive citizens in society, they need to attain some type of skill or trade in which they can provide a service to the general population. Whether that’s being a mechanic or performing heart surgery, these skills all require a  formal training of some sort. Sometimes these skills can be attained through a trade school, and other times through a college or university. In any event, individuals have to be taught these skills in order to provide them to society.

If we live in a country where the government does not provide an ample amount of assistance to those who are in need of financial assistance to obtain such skills, the nation runs the risk of falling behind other countries who do provide such support. In an already ailing public education system, it is especially important for the government  to do all it can to ensure those wanting to attain a higher education have the opportunity to do so.

This does not mean that the government has to provide for those wishing to attend the nation’s most expensive universities, were they to be accepted. They should, however, make sure that the Pell Grants and other government subsidies are able to keep up with the rising costs of attending college, state schools in particular.

Another disadvantage of reduced Pell Grants is that those who wish to obtain a higher education do not have the chance to do so. Because the economy and the workforce place a premium on an educated workforce, there’s a chance for rising income inequality to occur if a substantial portion of the workforce is not able to obtain an education because they cannot afford it. Historically, countries with high income inequality rates suffer from several issues that range from severe problems with political corruption to criminal violence that ravages the country. If income equality continues to grow in the country, America would not be an exception.

Every year, Congress must make decisions on what and what not to cut in the annual budget. This is not an easy process, and not everyone will be satisfied with the changes and cuts to the budgets. However, lawmakers should remember that education is the backbone of the nation’s economy. Accordingly, lawmakers should be cautious of fiscal policy that could discourage individuals from obtaining a higher education. The economy depends on it.