With stimulus comes higher education funding, thankfully

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed President ObamaâÄôs $819 billion economic stimulus package. The package included $150 billion for education spending, an enormous increase for a federal government that has traditionally delegated education funding to state and local governments. Although this may seem like a drastic measure, the editorial board supports the increased funding for education and believes it is necessary for the long-term security of our economy. First of all, the stimulus package will directly impact the lives of some students by providing a $16 billion increase in funding for Pell Grants, a financial aid program for students with the greatest economic need. At a time when it is increasingly difficult to be competitive in the job market, the government must do all that it can to help Americans afford higher education. According to the Department of Education web site, the average Pell Grant currently is only about $3,000 âÄî barely enough to make a dent in the cost of a college education. An increase for this program is desperately needed, and will help more students afford college as well as assist universities such as Stanford in maintaining their own commitments to financial aid. The stimulus package will also provide support to other college financial aid and work-study programs. The bulk of the education stimulus money, however, will provide assistance to public primary and secondary schools throughout the country. Although they will not directly impact Stanford students, the editorial board is equally supportive of these funding measures. According to The New York Times, one point of contention about the education stimulus is that it will provide funding for construction projects meant to rebuild the infrastructure of many public schools. These sorts of physical improvements have traditionally been funded through state and local tax and bond measures. However, given the recent decline in property values and the budget crunches being faced by state and local governments, the editorial board supports the decision of the federal government to help fix our crumbling schools. School renovations also have the capacity to create jobs in the construction industry. The stimulus package also appropriately targets education funding towards the most vulnerable students. It will increase funding for Title I programs for low-income students, as well as special education and Head Start. These programs too often disproportionately suffer from budget cuts, and although newspaper headlines continue to focus on the downfall of Wall Street tycoons and large investment banks, the burden of the bad economy falls hardest on families who are already struggling. Ensuring that students from low-income families continue to have educational opportunities is surely a good use of the stimulus dollars. The New York Times also pointed out that several provisions in the package provide windfall benefits to student lending companies. The editorial board hopes that members of Congress and President Obama will do their best to eliminate needless measures and corporate welfare from the stimulus package. As a whole, however, we believe that the increase in education funding is necessary and appropriate, and we hope that the legislation is passed by the Senate and signed into law as soon as possible. This editorial, accessed via UWire, was originally published in The Stanford Daily at Stanford University. Please send comments to [email protected]