Bush in student aid swap

February 18, 2005

President George W. Bush has proposed a dramatic increase in the US's biggest tuition grant programme, but by making drastic cuts in other financial assistance.

The President, in his $2.57 trillion (£1.37 trillion) budget proposal last week, called for a 45 per cent boost in funding for the Pell Grant programme. Part of the money would fill an existing shortfall, and part would allow the maximum grant to be increased by $100 a year for five years, bringing the top award to $4,550 per student a year. For the first time, a limit would be imposed on how long individuals could continue to receive grants.

But President Bush wants to axe the Perkins programme, which offers low-interest loans to more than 670,000 students a year from a revolving fund provided jointly by the Government and individual universities.

Making more money available for Pell grants "will help low and middle-income families finance higher education", David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, said. "At the same time, we are disappointed with other proposals in the President's budget that would eliminate long-standing, successful programmes that have done a great deal to help students and families."

In all, the Bush Administration has proposed eliminating or scaling back about 150 government programmes to help close a deficit fuelled by tax cuts and the cost of the war in Iraq. One third of the cuts come from education, including about $2 billion from programmes meant to help prepare low-income students for college.

Some conservatives think the cuts should go further. Right-wing think-tank The Cato Institute published a document last month claiming that government-supplied student aid has driven tuition-fee increases.

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