President’s Budget Protects Pell Grants, but Makes Deep Cuts to Career and Technical Education

President Obama released a budget on Monday that would make millions of dollars in cuts to student aid to preserve the popular Pell Grant program.

To maintain a maximum Pell award of $5,550, the president’s fiscal 2012 budget would eliminate the in-school interest subsidy on loans to graduate students and end a policy that allows students to receive two Pell Grants in a single year.

It would provide level support for most other student-aid programs, including Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and Federal Work-Study, while making deep cuts to career and technical education.

In a conference call with reporters, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the cuts were “painful” but “absolutely necessary,” given skyrocketing demand for Pell Grants. Some 9.6 million students are expected to receive the awards next year, up from 6 million in 2008.

“We must cut where we can to invest where we must,” he said.

In addition to Pell Grants, those “investments” include the Perkins Loan program, which would grow from $1-billion to $8.5-billion under the president’s proposal, and two new college-completion programs, which would receive $175-million between them. …

Another program that would take a hit under the president’s proposal is career and technical education, which would be cut by $265-million, or roughly 20 percent. Asked about the cut during the call, Mr. Duncan said the department wanted to remake the programs before expanding them.

“You have some programs that have done a good job, but, frankly, there hasn’t been enough accountability for results,” he said.

Supporters of the programs said the cuts would undermine the president’s goals of reducing unemployment and graduating five million more Americans with certificates and degrees by 2020. They point out that career and technical education programs help laid-off workers obtain new skills.

“These programs teach students to be college- and career-ready,” said Jan Bray, executive director of the Association for Career and Technical Education. “If Congress and the administration want to restore job growth, reduce the dropout rate, and improve the U.S. economy, then we need to continue to invest in career and technical education.”

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