Editor’s Note: A reminder that our DC Shuttle column has changed gates. Our news from Washington will now appear in Newslink, rather than the Journal section, of https://www.nebhe.org.
On Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan defended the department’s budget request for FY 2012, including a 10.7% increase over 2011 funding levels, to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, and Education. Duncan highlighted the Pell Grant program’s need for increased funding, as the economic downturn has led to a significant expansion in students applying for aid and he “desperately” wants to maintain the current maximum grant level of $5,550. The Education Department has requested $28.6 billion for Pell Grants in FY 2012.
Subcommittee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) was wary of allocating additional funds to a program which has been criticized by many Republicans as inefficient and unsustainable. “We cannot continue to throw money at this problem,” he said. Secretary Duncan pointed out that the funding bill passed earlier this year already made changes to the program to make it less expensive, and said that the administration has already made “tough choices” in order to rein in Pell Grant costs. Senator Shelby, who is also the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, further questioned the wisdom of continuing to fund the administration’s Race to the Top competitive grant program, as it “essentially mandates which interventions should be used by states and local school districts to improve student achievement.” The Obama Administration requested $900 million for the program in FY 2012.
Also on Wednesday, the Education Department announced that high schools will use revised, more accurate reporting methods for graduation rates beginning this summer. This marks a shift from the current practice of states each using their own methods to calculate graduation rates. Duncan said that the new standardized data collection “will help target support so more students graduate on-time.” He added that the department expects to see a lower, but more accurate, average national graduation rate after the change is implemented.
From the New England Council’s Weekly Washington Report Higher Education Update, Aug 1, 2011. NEBHE is a member of the Council and will publish this column each week.
Founded in 1925, the New England Council is a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region. The Council’s mission is to identify and support federal public policies and articulate the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England. For more information, please visit www.newenglandcouncil.com.