Brenau President Joins Other Higher Education Leaders in Tackling Reforms to U.S. Student Aid Spending

May 4, 2011
Rudi Kiefer

SAN ANTONIO. Texas Brenau University President Ed Schrader this month joined peers from other institutions around the country to recommend solutions for preserving economy-driving programs in higher education against a backdrop of dire cuts in federal spending looming in the next decade.

Schrader, just appointed to a three-year term, is one of the newest members of the Committee on Student Aid of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, which met here earlier in April week to formulate the organization’s strategy and policy recommendations for federal funding for student aid and other issues. The committee comprises representatives of smaller institutions like Gainesville, Ga.-based Brenau as well as larger institutions like Southern Methodist University in Dallas and the University of Denver.

Although the committee is examining other issues, including the possibility of tighter regulation of for-profit private institutions, the top item on the agenda relates to Pell grants, the $5.5 billion federal program that provides college and university tuition assistance primarily for students from low-income families.

“Specifically we want to come up with recommendations for how to make the Pell grants program sustainable and accountable,” said Schrader. “That means we will have to look seriously at some dramatic changes that will affect both colleges and universities and Pell grant recipients.”

The Pell grant program survived in the continuing resolution budget compromise hammered out this week between President Obama and congressional Republicans, although some student aid programs took major hits. However, it is extremely likely that proposals to cut the grants will resume immediately as Congress takes up spending bills for fiscal year 2012, which begins Oct. 1.

“There is only one documented, provable long-term stimulus for financial growth and sustainability in any culture and that is educating the population,” said Schrader. “Because it has helped countless individuals break out of the cycle of poverty by helping them acquire an education they otherwise could not afford and become more productive, employable, tax-paying citizens, the Pell grant program has proved the point. Investment in the Pell grant program is an investment in the economic well-being of this country.”

However, Schrader added, he and his peers at other institutions know first-hand that considerable inefficiencies exist in the administration of the grants as well as opportunities for abuse, such as people enrolling in and attending classes just long enough to collect Pell grant money, dropping out, then enrolling again.

“There are ways to play the system,” Schrader said. “And, part of our job will be to couple that investment with efficiency, integrity and accountability to make certain that every dollar goes toward achieving the goals of the program.”

Although not-for-profit Brenau enrolls about 2,800 students in undergraduate and graduate programs at its five Georgia campuses and online, about 570 are eligible for the maximum Pell award of $5,550 per year. Earlier this year Schrader opposed various proposals to cut the Pell grant program, including President Obama’s initial recommendation to eliminate Pell grants for summer programs.

NAICU, which has more than 900 member institutions, serves as the unified national voice of independent higher education. The 35-year-old association represents private colleges and universities on policy issues with the federal government, such as those affecting student aid, taxation and government regulation.

Originally published on 4/25/11