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Kanter Maintains Support for Pell Grants in House Hearing

Undersecretary of Education Margaret Kanter defended the 2012 education budget request to continue the maximum Pell Grant award of $5,500 in testimony yesterday before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Service and Education.

The Pell Grant program, established in 1972, provides grants to low-income students to pursue postsecondary education. Demand for Pell Grants has skyrocketed in the past few years as more workers return to college for retraining; more families are eligible for aid because of drops in income and higher cost of tuition. (See my story last week here.)

The 2012 budget request for Pell Grants is $28.6 billion, The administration's budget includes ending the year-round Pell, after it proved more costly (10 times the original estimate) than anticipated. Eliminating the current provision of "two Pells" is estimated to save $8 billion in 2012 and $49 billion over 10 years.

"More students than ever are relying on federal aid, and if we are to reach our goal of out-innovating, out-educating and out-building the rest of the world, we need to continue our investment in these students," said Kanter in prepared testimony.

The House had proposed cutting the maximum award by $845, but the Senate rejected the idea last week. In the hearing Tuesday, the undersecretary faced tough questions from members of both parties about the future of the program.

In the meantime, students planning their finances for next fall are waiting for a decision.

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