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Economic stimulus proposes $150 billion in aid to education

With an American public that is daily being forced to reckon with an increasing awareness of the dire and declining state of the economy, President Obama has initiated his campaign promise of change.

On Jan. 29, the House of Representatives passed Obama’s $817 billion economic stimulus bill. All that remains for the bill to be signed into law is approval from the Senate and the signature of the president.

The legislation is aimed at salvaging the tattered economy through numerous and diverse measures over the next several years. The backbone of the bill stems from the classic economic theory of creating liquidity and employment in the market through the use of tax breaks and increased government spending.

One relevant notion of the plan is an infusion of $150 billion into the field of education. Of this $150 billion, $8 billion will be used to increase federal spending on a lagging Pell Grant program from $19 billion to $27 billion.

At one time a key source of college funding, Pell Grants currently have a yearly maximum of $4,310 per student. They are awarded by the government based on an assessment of financial need conducted through FAFSA: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Amidst rising higher education costs, the Federal Pell Grant spending has remained virtually unchanged, forcing many lower-income students to seek out alternative, and often less financially desirable, sources of funding.

Now, with the passing of the Economic Stimulus bill, there may be hope for college students across the nation. This hope comes amidst some of the most sobering economic times the country has seen in decades, and with the future affordability of higher education in doubt, students, even many who come from upper middle class backgrounds, are beginning to awaken to the reality that a traditional four-year college education may be more difficult to obtain.

In the future, only the students themselves will be able to accurately assess whether the stimulus bill is, in fact, making college more affordable. As it stands now, many families eagerly wait for the cost of higher education to come back within their means.

Source: NYtimes.com: “Stimulus Plan Would Provide Flood of Aid to Education.”

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