College Less Affordable — Bush Policies Failing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The affordability of college is on a steady decline, especially for low-income and minority high-school graduates, according to a new study released today by the Renewing Schools, Securing Our Future National Task Force on Public Education, sponsored by the Center for American Progress and the Institute for America’s Future.  The study clearly shows how President Bush’s higher education funding proposals fall terribly short of solving this problem.

The average cost of tuition at a public college more than doubled in the past twenty years and has become less affordable, due to the failure of grant aid to keep pace with tuition increases.

Institute for America’s Future President Robert Borosage noted that making college affordable for every high school graduate is vital to America’s future, but the president is sitting back and watching as the sons and daughters of more and more working families are finding college priced out of reach.

“While the president boasts of his increases in support for college, his increases in Pell Grants, the government’s basic scholarship program, won’t begin to cover the needs of struggling students,” said Borosage. He kills funding for the LEAP program, which provides aid targeted toward low-income students, and these are the two essential ways this paper suggests the government can help the poorest Americans achieve their dreams.”

Center for American Progress President and CEO, John Podesta, pointed to the president’s priorities, slashing higher education funding to pay for massive tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.

“The report shows another manifestation of the real costs of the Bush tax cuts,” said Podesta. “We have a situation where kids who have worked hard and have enormous potential are stymied by under-funded government programs, which could be easily avoided.”

Inadequate funding for need-based grants like LEAP, coupled with tuition increases that outpace many families’ incomes have forced students to rely heavily on loans. The Bush administration recommends no funding for LEAP in its 2006 budget proposal

“George Bush speaks of an ownership society, and he is right; our children now own a mountain of debt. First it was his social security proposal, and now we are seeing the same disregard for our children through his inadequate higher education initiatives,” added Podesta.

The task force that released today’s study plans to make significant recommendations for modernizing and renewing public education this summer. The paper released today, Affordability of Postsecondary Education: Equity and Adequacy Across the 50 States, is the fourth paper released by the task force.

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