May 24, 2012

How to Fix Pell Grants

By By Andrew J. Rotherham

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A decade ago I was involved in an effort to rethink federal college aid programs in partnership with the Brookings Institution. We brought together a diverse set of thinkers to brainstorm about how to better target federal dollars to help the neediest students. Sounds pretty mundane, right? But it was a circus. People were so miffed by any suggestion of changing the Federal Pell Grant Program that one advocate even circulated a cowardly anonymous poem insulting the wife of a participant. (Who says education policy is boring?) There was hardly any useful data about who was using various federal aid programs because different federal agencies — including the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Education — wouldn’t talk to each other. In short, I quickly learned that when it comes to higher education reform, war is Pell…

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