Mickey Kaus notices that the White House "fact sheet" on the budget deal repeats the phrase "President's Historic Investment in Pell Grants" "twice, verbatim, for the proper Great Leap Forward effect." From the White House summary:
Includes Funding to Protect the President's Historic Investment in Pell Grants: Since taking office, the President has increased the maximum Pell award by $819 to a maximum award $5,550, helping over 9 million students pay for college tuition bills. The deal provides specific protection in the discretionary budget to ensure that the there will be sufficient funding for the President's historic investment in Pell Grants without undermining other critical investments.
To win this issue, the president's critics need to talk about how that money doesn't really go to the college students and their families, but in fact winds up in the pockets of college presidents (like Columbia's $1,753,984 a year Lee Bollinger) and professors (like the City University of New York's $143,235 a year Peter Beinart.) The Pell Grants just funnel money to a core Democratic constituency, college professors, who use the funds to raise tuition and fees by the amount of the increase in Pell Grants. Maybe if the students and parents instead of taxpayers were bearing more of the cost, there'd be more resistance to the tuition and fee increases, and they'd slow down, or there'd be greater market pressure to use technology to reduce personnel costs. It's the same dynamic one sees in health care, where government subsidies drive inflation. Any Republican who wants to challenge President Obama on the issue should talk with Richard Vedder, who writes:
In 2006, the nation spent under $14-billion a year on Pell Grants, and the program had languished in size for years. Yet by fiscal year 2010, the costs had more than doubled to over $28-billion, an increase of over 15 percent annually, even after allowing for inflation. The figure for this fiscal year will rise again, but even more—over 25 percent. Our spending on Pell Grants now exceeds the total output of Nicaragua, Somalia, and Iceland combined (nations whose combined population of 16 million is greater than the entire U.S. undergraduate student population.)