Thoughts on Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery sponsored by the Gates Foundation

Here are a few thoughts from the Yes We Must Coalition about the Reimagining project sponsored by the Gates Foundation.

  1. Given the statistics on the economic needs of children currently attending elementary school in our country, it is clear that our country’s children have gotten poorer and will need more Pell assistance if they are to stay on track to go to and graduate from college. (This based on our associate member Tom Mortenson’s data that show half of kids currently in elementary school are on the free lunch program). An increase in zero EFC is coming and we should be planning for that now.
  2. We shouldn’t be complicit in accepting less Pell or limited Pell funding as that is in effect an acceptance of years of decreased federal funding due to the tax cuts enacted more than a decade ago.
  3. Pell is a program devised to help our society deal with gross inequality in income/wealth. There is concern that setting different standards for Pell grant recipients will reintroduce the concept of a “deserving” and a “non-deserving” poor. If the academic bar is placed differently for a Pell grant recipient than for a non Pell grant recipient, it will introduce a kind of class discrimination that we do not want. The Pell eligible student should have the same expectations for success as her non-Pell eligible roommate. Pell should not be turned into a “merit” scholarship.
  4. All of the various initiatives to increase college graduation rates in our country include the adult student who can be redirected to college with appropriate financial support. This is a population that is critical to our country’s success at increasing the proportion of college graduates in our country. It is unacceptable to have a definition of Pell eligibility that is focused only on direct from high school graduates. We do not believe that there is a significant if any “fraud” in the Pell system. We would hate to see limited resources directed to weeding out fraud. We just don’t see it.
  5. We must continue to press for the restoration of state funding for higher education and link it to the current levels of student debt.
  6. There should be a foundation sponsored national campaign to raise awareness of the income-based repayment and public service loan forgiveness programs. We need messages on every campus and in social media and as part of the Pell program awarding itself.
  7. Financial literacy is being addressed by most of our campuses. It includes an awareness of the current system of income and wealth inequality, how debt is formed, how interest is paid as part of debt and financial management. We believe it is a very important part of everyone’s education.

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