A Statement from AASCU President Muriel Howard on President Obama’s FY2012 Budget

As America works to invigorate its economy, failing to invest in our country’s future workforce would be a tragic mistake. We face increasing competition from overseas, American businesses are demanding more skills of their workers, and Americans are determined and deserve the opportunity to make the most of their lives. Investing in Pell Grants is increasing our investment in America.

President Obama’s FY2012 budget, released to the public today, acknowledges a need to be conservative about spending. AASCU applauds the president for his reasoned approach in proposing a budget that seeks balance between reducing the national debt and making sound investments in education. America is facing hard choices. The president’s FY2012 budget proposes a path for reducing what the government spends in the years ahead while recognizing the attention that must be paid to investing in priorities that will continue to make America stronger for “winning the future.”

President Obama’s budget maintains a strong commitment to preserving educational opportunity for millions of low-income students who are struggling to invest in their education by delivering on a promise to retain the Pell Grant maximum award of $5,550. To do so in a Congressional environment that is looking at extreme program reductions took great leadership and vision. The president proposes offsets in order to pay for this continued investment by eliminating the year-round Pell Grant and the in-school interest subsidy for graduate and professional student loans. AASCU believes that the quintessential priority for protecting access to postsecondary education for low-income and underrepresented minority students outweighs the advantages of continuing the services provided by the proposed student aid offsets. However, we urge the President to reflect cautiously on the cuts and to explore other program cuts that may be used to protect the Pell Grant maximum award.

We commend the president for his focus on investing in programs that increase the number of great teachers, on new efforts to recruit greater numbers of talented individuals into teaching and on better preparing and supporting teacher education programs at minority-serving institutions. We encourage the expansion of the Perkins Loans as a lower-cost alternative to private loans for 3 million students who need additional financial aid.

The creation of a College Completion Incentive Grants program, which would provide funding to states in 2012 to help encourage positive outcomes for low-income students in higher education, is the right kind of incentive to better align high school graduation requirements with participating institutions’ expectation for academic preparation. However, these funds would result in better completion results if provided directly to institutions.