President Barack Obama has shown a commitment to improving education in his presidency, talking it up in his address to the joint sessions of Congress as ‘absolutely critical to our economic future.’ This is exactly what Obama’s strongest constituency, America’s youth, wants to hear.
And thus far, Obama has kept his word. His stimulus package will raise the maximum amount of the Pell Grant, designed to help low-income students pay for college, from $4,730 to $5,550. In addition, his proposed budget calls for the grants to be tied to the inflation rate, which will ensure that the amount of money low-income students are receiving reflects the rising cost of a college education.
Increasing aid to students via the Pell Grant is no doubt a commendable move by the president, but it can’t end there. The low-income students aren’t the only ones who need help. It’s easy to forget that the middle class is having its own trouble paying for a college education. They are not asking for a handout, but it is sometimes unreasonable to expect middle class families in these challenging economic times to pay the total cost of college tuition, especially when tuition at prestigious universities can nearly equal a family’s annual income.’
Colleges can’t meet the needs of middle class families alone. With shrinking endowments and budget cuts, there have been questions right here at Boston University about whether or not colleges are going to be able to provide financial aid to those who would normally qualify for it. In addition, there are numerous middle class families who are by no means wealthy, but make just enough to miss qualifying for financial aid. These families have to make the difficult choice of whether to send their child to the school of their dreams and put off retirement for a few years, or to tell their child that they are going to have to settle for a less expensive school that isn’t quite what they had in mind.
The Obama administration has called the middle class ‘the backbone of this country,’ and rightly so. A strong middle class is essential to a prosperous economy, and Obama must do all he can to support middle class families, as he has with the lower class, in their educational endeavors.