Friday, November 26, 2004


Rich Miller of the Capital Fax -- it makes a great gift -- was good enough to forward the following press release from the Governor's office regarding possible Pell Grant cuts:
Gov. Blagojevich calls on U.S. Department of Education to stop proposed changes in Pell Grant funding that could force 52,000 Illinois students to pay more for college

Action would strip $7 million in Pell Grants for state students

CHICAGO – In response to the proposed changes that would slash college aid, Gov. Rod Blagojevich sent a letter today to U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige urging him to stop attempts to make a college education more expensive by altering the way the federal government funds the Pell Grant program, which greatly impacts Illinois students and their families.

"The investments that give our young people the opportunity to earn a college degree pay tremendous economic dividends not only for the students but also for our entire society. It would be shortsighted and cost ineffective to cut back on this investment. I hope that by working together we can find a solution that does not require slashing these important federal education dollars," Gov. Blagojevich wrote.

Gov. Blagojevich also highlighted that more than 52,000 of the Illinois students who are eligible to receive Pell Grants would lose either all or a portion of their grants as a result of the new federal changes, based on initial estimates. This means $7 million in lost Pell Grants for Illinois students."Illinois has one of the largest need-based financial aid programs in the nation, the Monetary Award Program (MAP), which serves families with average incomes of $29,000. The new federal changes will put further stress on our statewide program, which helps fill the ever-increasing gap between college costs and federal resources," Gov. Blagojevich said.

Pell Grants and the state-supported MAP funds represented more than 50 percent of the total scholarship and grant funds for Illinois undergraduates in fiscal year 2002-2003. Spending bills that were approved by both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives on Saturday would allow these unfortunate changes to move forward.
As I said to Mr. Miller, this an excellent example of the Blagorgeous magic in action.

It combines: 1) A cause that no one could be against -- college education -- plus
2) Money outside the state budget -- federal education funds -- plus
3) A press release -- with a "Chicago" dateline rather than "Springfield."

And as a bonus, the problem addressed in the press release may never actually come to fruition. The spending bills authorize cutting Pell grants, they don't mandate it. That's why the press release is ambiguous about the threat: "Action would strip $7 million in Pell Grants for state students."

The Guv has brilliantly positioned himself so that 1) inaction by the Dept. of Ed. means an apparent victory for Blagorgeous, and 2) if the Bushies decide to cut Pell Grants, he can say he saw the looming threat and tried to stop it. Either way Rod Blagojevich is the champion of college education in Illinois. It's all upside and no downside. (It probably won't even get him into trouble with the US Dept of Ed because the letter was addressed to the outgoing secretary, Rod Paige, not Margaret Spellings, the presumptive new Sec of Ed.)

I still think that Blagorgeous is a disappointment, but he could teach Democrats a thing or two when it comes to choosing and framing issues.

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