Former RI Senator Claiborne Pell Dies at 90

by Ryan on January 2, 2009

in Economy,Politics,Rhode Island

Meaning no disrespect, but when I heard about the passing of former Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell yesterday, I had absolutely no idea he was still alive until then.  The former six-term Senator served from 1960 to 1996, so he was always old to me, and since moving to NJ seven years ago I just assumed he’d already passed!  When the local RI news started calling the Newport Bridge after him regularly by2003, I didn’t realize he was still with us at the time (though the name was changed while Pell was still in the Senate, nobody really called it the Pell Bridge until recently — I still call it the Newport Bridge out of habit!).

While bringing home the bacon to RI like a good Democrat always tries to do, his greatest claim to fame was the “Pell Grant” he helped pass in the 1970s.  I was a recipient of a Pell Grant when I went to college back in the 1990s.  It was nice.  It didn’t help much overall, but a grant’s a grant I suppose.

Unfortunately, federal government assistance to low-income college-bound youths in the 1970s and ’80s only led to colleges and universities increasing their tuition beyond what was needed for maintenance, upkeep of the physical plant, the integration of new technologies, as well as the institution’s basic needs — they took advantage of all that new money coming in with cover from the feds to disproportionately increase tuition beyond the rate of inflation.  Federal loans and Pell Grants account for 53% of all financial aid to colleges — and it keeps going up every year to match tuition increases. Very sneaky.

That’s why so many of my friends will still be paying off college well into their forties.  I went to a boring and cheap state school so I’ve already paid off my loans, but all that “free” federal money floating around out there has put more students into a huge hole of debt, much of which is not necessary.

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