Senate Democrats

Democratic Budget Resolution Makes Urgently Needed Investments in Education

Today, the Senate will begin debate on the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Resolution (S. Con. Res. 13), a fiscally-responsible budget plan that addresses the fiscal and economic crises inherited from the Bush Administration, and lays the foundation for the long-term economic security of the United States.  The Democratic Budget Resolution makes significant investments to promote clean energy and reduce our dependence on oil, reform our health care system, make excellence in education a reality, and provide tax-cuts for middle-class families. 

After years of neglect and funding cuts under the Bush Administration, our budget is built on the belief that quality, affordable education is crucial for our nation’s future economic strength.  The inherited fiscal and economic crises underscore the need to invest in education and training programs to build a highly-skilled workforce ready to compete in the global marketplace.  The Democratic Budget Resolution is the next step on the road to economic growth.

Eight Years of Inaction and the High Cost of Education

Skyrocketing College Tuition Costs. Since the 2001-2002 academic year, college costs have risen by 43 to 58 percent.  Average tuition, fees, room and board costs at four-year private universities have increased by $10,276, or 43 percent, from $23,856 to $34,132 in the 2008-2009 academic year.[1] Tuition, fees, room and board charges at four-year public colleges jumped from $9,032 to $14,333 for the 2008-2009 academic year – an increase of $5,301, or 58 percent.[2]

Soaring Student Debt. The rising cost of a college education means that average student loan debt has soared, to more than $19,000. Without adequate federal grants funding, students and their parents must rely more on student loans to finance their college educations.  According to the Institute for College Access and Success, more than 60 percent of college seniors graduate with debt, with an average $19,200 in debt per graduate.[3] Finally, as more students and families rely on student loans, banks are increasing their lending standards due to the credit crunch. [4]  Students and their families remain concerned about continued access to student loans. 

The Democratic Budget Resolution Focuses on Education

The Budget Resolution recognizes that a high-quality education is the key to individual success in today’s global marketplace and is crucial to securing our nation’s future economic strength.  To maintain our competitiveness in the world economy, American students of all ages, including adults who find themselves in need of retooling their skills to meet the demands of a new economy, must be equipped with the tools necessary to succeed in the 21st Century.  Unfortunately, the rising cost of education, compounded by the economic downturn, has depleted families’ savings and threatened the possibility of higher education for many students.  The Budget Resolution addresses these critical needs by providing our students with critical support and resources. 

Supporting President Obama’s Priorities.  The Budget Resolution fully funds the President’s request for discretionary education and training programs over the five-year budget window.

Expanding Early Childhood Education.  Building on investments made in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5), the Budget Resolution supports the President’s goal of expanding number of children served by Head Start and Early Head Start.  These proven, effective programs prepare low-income children to enter kindergarten ready to learn by providing child development, education, health, nutrition, and other services. 

Increasing Support for Children from Disadvantaged Backgrounds. The competitive educational advantage Americans used to enjoy, relative to other nations, has eroded, and our global competitors now spend less money per student, but have better educational outcomes.[5]  We cannot afford to allow our students to be outperformed.  The Budget Resolution calls for a significant investment in building human capital through programs that target low-income students, such as Title I, and for innovative and effective strategies to reduce achievement gaps and improve student learning.

Improving Student Aid.  In 1979, Pell grants covered over 70 percent of tuition and fees a public four-year university.  Today, Pell grants cover about a third.[6] As the cost of attending college has risen, our assistance to students and their families has not matched the need.  The Budget Resolution provides a deficit-neutral reserve fund to support a $5,550 maximum Pell Grant award in the 2010-2011 school year.  As the primary source of federal need-based student financial aid, over 75 percent of all Pell Grants are awarded students from families making $30,000 or less.[7]  Pell Grants are indispensable for millions of students who might not otherwise have had the financial resources to pursue a college degree.  The reserve fund will also allow authorizing committees to consider the President’s proposals for student aid, such as expanding and strengthening Pell grants, or to provide tax incentives for higher education.

Preparing and Supporting a Quality Education Workforce.  The quality of our education workforce is key to our students’ education success.  Building on investments made in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Budget Resolution invests in programs designed to improve the skills and effectiveness of America’s educators.

Encouraging National Service. Building on the recently-passed Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act (H.R.1388), the Budget Resolution provides the President’s requested funding level for the Corporation for National and Community Service, and encourages Americans to serve their country and community.

[1]      The College Board, “Trends in College Pricing 2008,” available here.

[2]      Id.

[3]      The Institute for College Access and Success (2006), based on an analysis of data from the Department of Education, National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (2004) cited in "A New Commitment to Students and Families: Opening the Door to College for All" prepared by the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (July 2007) at 12.

[4]      Robert Tomsho, "Tuition Ammunition: a Happy Lesson on Lending" Wall Street Journal (January 6, 2009).

[5]      Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, “Education at a Glance, 2008: OECD Indicators,” Chapters A and B, available here.

[6]      The College Board, “Trends in Student Aid 2008,” Tables 5 and 12a, available here

[7]      U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, “2006-2007 Federal Pell Grant Program End-of-Year Report,” available here.