College Board urges higher federal limits on grants


Published: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 12:29 a.m.

The government should raise the limits on Pell grants and other types of financial aid to help make college more affordable for low-income students, a College Board-appointed panel recommended Wednesday.

"If we do not turn the national conversation back to investment in education access and away from tax reduction, `No Child Left Behind' will become just an empty phrase, representing broken promises, broken aspirations and broken dreams," said the group's president, Gaston Caperton.

That year-old law, championed by President Bush, requires annual testing and gives more control to families with children in poorly performing schools.

Pell grants should cover about $9,700 for the 2002-03 academic year - the average total of tuition, fees and room and board for a student at a four-year college, the panel said. The maximum grant for the 2001-02 school year was $3,750.

"We're a very rich country, we can afford to make college available," said Gary Orfield, co-director of Harvard University's Civil Rights Project and a researcher for the College Board's National Dialogue on Student Financial Aid.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., plans to introduce a bill this week that would ultimately increase Pell grant limits to $11,600 in the 2009-2010 year.

"This administration talks a good game about education being the road to opportunity and success, but then they refuse to help build the critically important 'on ramps' which in many ways are - and have been - Pell grants,'' Dodd said in a statement.

States and colleges should reaffirm their commitment to need-based aid, helping enroll more students from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds, the panel said.

States also should ensure that growth in merit-based financial programs does not come at the expense of need-based funding, said the panel of policy-makers, higher education representatives and business leaders.

The College Board, a New York-based organization best known as owner of the SAT, is a membership association composed of more than 4,200 schools, colleges, universities, and other educational organizations.

The panel found that colleges have more than doubled their grant aid to students over the past decade.

"Data indicate, however, that institutional grants are increasingly linked not just to need but also to test scores," the report said. "The increasing reliance on test scores in awarding institutional aid places students in segregated and unequal elementary and secondary schools at a decided disadvantage."

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