Miami Herald: Stop the blame game

As Congress debates budgets and debt ceilings, 10 million college students are holding their breath — 600,000 in Florida. They are Pell Grant recipients, and these young people have been under attack from certain conservatives who seem blind to the value of a college education and America’s role in opening university doors to the neediest students with the G.I. Bill, grants and loans.

As part of debt negotiations, Republicans have proposed cuts in the annual Pell Grant to each student who qualifies and a cutback in the number of students who would get the grants — currently a maximum of $5,500 a year. For Florida this would mean the $3,877 average Pell award would be slashed by about $1,833 just as state universities are increasing tuition and/or fees to cover escalating costs. And as many as 82,770 students now receiving Pell Grants would be shut out.

At a time of grave economic turmoil, it makes no sense to cut funding for higher education, particularly money that goes to students whose only “failure” is that their families face tough times.

In April, Rep. Denny Rehberg of Montana likened the Pell Grant program to “welfare of the 21st Century.” He later tried to clarify that he wasn’t criticizing poor students but calling for stricter requirements to ensure graduation. That’s all well and good. This Editorial Board has called for better monitoring of federal grants and loans so that colleges, particularly the for-profit kind, are not luring unqualified students simply to seize their grants or loans and send them on their way without the needed skills to get a good job. We’re all for accountability, but let’s not play word games.

This Washington battle is full of myths and outright lies.

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