But keeping the old formula in place for another year would add an extra $300 million in grants for college students to a program that is already running at a shortfall, the Office of Management and Budget said. So, the bill approved yesterday, brokered by Congressional leaders in a conference committee, eliminates a provision that would have barred the Education Department from changing the eligibility formula. A Senate staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the White House insisted the provision be dropped, citing the shortfall, and House Republicans were adamant in their agreement to do so.
"They are throwing students out of the opportunity to seek a college education," said Senator Jon S. Corzine, the New Jersey Democrat who wrote the amendment to stop the changes last year, and introduced a similar provision this year that did not survive the conference committee. "It is now clear to me that this was a backdoor attempt to cut funding from the Pell grant program."
The exact impact of the new rules is difficult to predict, but had the new formula gone into effect last year, it would have prevented about $270 million from being spent on Pell grants, the nation's primary scholarship program, the Congressional Research Service found. Many students, perhaps more than a million, would have received smaller grants, many education experts estimated. And about 84,000 students would have lost their Pell grants altogether, the research service reported.
The other day at lunch, I was accused of being incredibly cynical when I stated that I expected the White House would continue to de-fund college education. "After all," I said, "What's the purpose of educating young men who you're intending to send off to die in Iraq? What a waste of money."
This morning's report makes me think that maybe I'm not so cynical after all.