Congress alters glass ceiling

Staff Editorial Daily Texan University of Texas

Congress is tempering the glass ceiling for low-income students seeking higher education by cutting federal student aid programs by $12.7 billion.

The bill also cuts federal subsidies to low-interest lenders, raises rates on government-backed education loans and rescinds loan consolidation.

Meanwhile, tuition costs at four-year colleges are exploding, up 4.8 percent last year and 7.1 percent the year before; this isn’t the time to be cutting aid to students.

The bill also introduces new grants to be given to students eligible for Pell grants who major in science and technology or foreign languages crucial to national security interests. Students will be required to also have gone through a “rigorous” secondary-school curriculum, to be determined by the Secretary of Education, in order to qualify for the grants.

Small schools that can’t offer appropriate curricula, because of either a lack of demand or too small of a population to justify the extra spending, will lose their best students as well, and thanks to No Child Left Behind’s performance-based evaluations and school choice program, they will be forced into an endless cycle of diminishment.

Merit-based qualifications will serve only to reinforce the inequities the grants are meant to correct. This leaves students at low-income schools taking a double hit, missing out on grant money that could have offset the burden of the bill’s new higher-interest loans.

Legislators who support the new grants want to fix two problems with one half-baked solution, but they fail on both fronts, leaving both underprivileged students and national interests out in the cold.