New Pell Proposal…Better Optics?

President Bush is proposing to raise the maximum Pell Grant award by $500 and make the program a mandatory spending item in the federal budget. If the Administration follows through on this and finances it responsibly (for instance by addressing some waste in the student loan program) it’s a sensible albeit expensive proposal. It also further gets the administration off the hook on this issue (but why they did not announce all this as a package is a mystery…where does the PR money go?). Assuming they deliver, this would also put Democrats in something of a box on higher ed financing.

Big losers here? Possibly the student loan industry if the Bush team actually decides to pay for this thing. And, keep an eye on how this plays with efforts to make spending for the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act mandatory. Probably doesn’t help proponents of that cause. Policywise because (a) of the expense (b) the two programs work somewhat differently (both have eligibility criteria but Pell’s are much more clear). Politically even more so because if they have to eat this Pell proposal Congressional Republicans will be in no mood to make even more programs mandatory.

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