Tester: Pell Grants create jobs, boost U.S. economy

During lively discussion, Senator criticizes House attempts to cut financial aid

(U.S. SENATE) – Student financial aid is the key to good jobs and wiping it out would “cut our economy down,” Senator Jon Tester today told his colleagues during a lively discussion on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Tester, a former teacher, sharply criticized the U.S. House of Representatives for “irresponsibly” trying to slash Pell Grants over the past year.

A recently proposed House budget would cut Pell Grants by $3.6 billion, making college unaffordable for as many as 5,000 Montanans according to the state’s Associate Commissioner of Higher Education.  The controversial House Resolution One, passed in February, would have cut $5.7 billion from the popular initiative.  The Senate rejected this proposal on a bipartisan basis.

“If Pell Grants are reduced or potentially even taken away, as some want, it takes away that opportunity for upward mobility within the economy,” Tester said, noting that Pell Grants made higher education affordable for more than eight million students during the last school year.  “Without education, if you want to improve your quality of life, it becomes much more difficult.”

Tester highlighted the story of a Montana man whose health issues and the economy forced him to leave his job of 26 years, then trained for a new career with the help of a Pell Grant.

“He was able to get a Pell Grant, go back to school on a part-time basis, and study for a job in the culinary arts where he could support his family,” Tester said.  “Without those Pell Grants, he would have possibly been on workman’s comp or making far less money.”

Tester noted that Pell Grant recipients are primarily students with a total family income below $30,000.  In 1976, the first year that Pell Grants were fully-funded, they covered 72 percent of the cost of attending a four-year public university.  Today, they pay for just 32 percent of the cost.

“When I meet with students around the state of Montana, the first question they ask me is, ‘What’s the federal government doing to make college affordable?’” Tester said.  “Pell Grants add to our economy, and this is important because Pell Grants have been under attack in the House.”

Pell Grants, unlike loans, do not have to be repaid.  The maximum Pell Grant is currently $5,550, but amounts depend on financial need, tuition, and full-time or part-time status.

Video of Tester speaking about Pell Grants on the Senate floor is available HERE.