Now that the economic stimulus has been passed, politicians are considering ways to make parts of it meaningless.
Taking money designed to help lower-income kids pay for college and using it for whatever the state’s politicians want is hardly in the spirit of the stimulus bill, but that’s what may happen, according to a story today from Minnesota Public Radio’s Tim Post. Even as politicians are talking up the merits of the stimulus bill, they’re considering diverting some of it to a budget deficit of their own making, at the expense of a solution to a problem.
It’s easy to do. When the U.S. sends $1 for financial aid for kids, transfer $1 the state provides for financial aid for kids to something else. The net effect on a kid’s ability to go to college: zip.
Kathy Ruby, director of financial aid at St. Olaf College in Northfield, is also the president of the Minnesota Association of Financial Aid Administrators. Her view is shared by the statewide group, she said.
“Certainly the state deficit creates a real challenge for our lawmakers. It’s easy for me to say, but it seems clear to me that this is something that students clearly need, and this is something that Congress intended,” said Ruby.
This approach to the program is in stark contrast to the picture Gov. Pawlenty painted at the National Governor’s Association meeting with President Obama on Monday, in which he sounded like a governor in handcuffs. “The federal government has attached so many conditions, strings, limits on the use of the money that it’s not going to allow us to be as creative or reform-minded or as flexible as we would have liked, and that’s disappointing,” he said.
The Pell Grant situation, though, recalls some past complaints about higher education by lawmakers. In the past, when the state would increase financial aid to students, colleges would raise tuition, negating the impact of the aid to the kids.
The Minnesota approach to diverting stimulus money is happening elsewhere, too.
In New York, Gov. David Paterson said he might divert money that was intended to help Medicaid recipients. “It does not have any direction. It is discretionary,” he said.
North Carolina is also considering diverting state money replaced by the stimulus bill for Medicaid.
Should strings have been attached to all of the money, or should the feds just have given the money to the state to figure out how to spend?
(Photo: ZioDave on Flickr/cc)
update 917 am –
(h/t for video: Sara Meyer)