LOEBSACK BACKS PELL GRANTS

Original Found Here (Daily Iowan)

BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | APRIL 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, said he’s determined to retain funding for federal Pell Grants, which have come under question in recent weeks as budget concerns swept across Congress.

Loebsack spoke about higher education in Coralville on Monday with consultants at the headquarters of Noel-Levitz, 2350 Oakdale Blvd.,an organization, which works with colleges and universities across the country on retention issues.

Loebsack told the small group he depended on Pell Grants throughout his college career.

“My mom was a single parent,” he said. “I worked hard for my education, but I also had a lot of help with financial aid. I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am without it.”

Loebsack said he and his wife are also close to the issue. The congressman taught at Cornell College for 24 years, and his wife taught for nearly 30 years.

The discussion came soon after a budget proposal from Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that would cut individual Pell Grants by up to $850.

The Pell Grant provided roughly 20 percent of UI undergraduates more than $15.3 million this academic year.

As a member of the Education and Work Force Committee, Loebsack has expressed his disappointment in Ryan’s proposed cuts.

“I give Paul Ryan credit for thinking long-term on the budget,” Loebsack said. “That said, I think he’s thinking incorrectly.”

Despite Loebsack’s criticism, at least one local Republican official said Ryan’s budget is a step in the right direction.

Bob Anderson, the head of the Johnson County Republican Central Committee, said Ryan’s plan is the start of a “long road to fiscal sanity.”

“There might be an item or two in the mix [of Ryan’s budget] that can be debated or analyzed, but the overall thrust of what he’s done is to take a courageous step toward putting the country back on a sustainable course for future generations,” Anderson said.

But UI political-science Associate Professor Cary Covington acknowledged the importance of Pell Grants.

“Speaking strictly as a parent and someone interested in making college as accessible financially as possible, cuts in Pell Grants are troubling,” he said.

During his discussion, Loebsack addressed the growing disconnect between parties in Washington, playing down the effect it has had on policy.

“I think that right now there is a singular focus on fiscal discipline,” he said. “People are not thinking enough about the human consequences of the budget decisions that get made. That is why it is important to put a human face on it whenever we can.”

While grants and funding were a couple of main focuses during the event, Loebsack talked about his goals for improving life for the middle class.

“You can’t win the future if you cut back on education,” he said. “Ultimately, there are people who cannot [pay for college] on their own, they just can’t do it, and they need some help.”

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