As the debate regarding whether or not the Republican and Democratic parties are more alike than different rages on, political pundits and private citizens in search of an answer have turned to the educational arena in an attempt to discern whether or not the two groups are ideologically aligned. While much legislation for various projects and purposes has been submitted by members of both camps, two of the most compelling acts as of late are Governor Georgia Deal’s decision to cut funding for the HOPE scholarship and President Barack Obama’s legislation limiting the amount of Pell Grant money college students can receive. An even cursory examination of this activity sends to lend credence to the notion that both parties have a proclivity for eliding the needs of individuals in need of an education to climb the socioeconomic latter. Let’s examine both cases briefly.
As many Georgians know, Republican conservative Governor Nathan Deal recently revamped the HOPE scholarship after a lack in revenue from the Georgia lottery put funding for the educational program in jeopardy. While the scholarship used to provide full university funding for students who maintained a 3.0 during high school, the revenue shortage from the loterry resulted in Deal changing the scholarship structure into a two-tier system comprised of the Zell Miller Scholarship and a new form of the old HOPE program. With the Zell Miller Scholarship, students must have a 3.7 GPA and score a 1200 on the SAT in order to qualify for total college tuition funding. Its counterpart, the new HOPE scholarship, requires that students maintain a 3.0 as before. Yet this branch of the scholarship will cover only 90% of tuition as opposed to the full funding provided in the past. These changes are problematic on many levels, especially since socioeconomic status is tied to how students perform academically. Deal’s changes to the HOPE program mean that many people who were already more likely to have substantive wealth and access to a quality education will be receiving more money and acceptance into institutions of higher learning. On the other hand, their poorer counterparts will likely lose their opportunity to attain the money necessary to fund their education, thereby perpetuating the cycles of poverty put in place by their uneducated parents. Upon considering Deal’s changes to the HOPE scholarship then, it appears that he is at least somewhat unconcerned about devising solutions for problems indigenously connected to the poverty that results from-and is perpetuated by-a lack of education.
Individuals who argue that the Democrats have a better record of educating the poor than the Republicans may be surprised to note that President Barack Obama was responsible for cutting Pell Grant funding by 33%. According to Obama’s new plan, Pell Grants will be rewarded for 12-rather than 18-semesters. The cuts were reportedly first discovered by Dallas college students who received e-mails regarding the changes. Put in perpetuity by the Consolidated Appropriations Act that President Obama signed into law on December 23, 2011, the federal measure limiting Pell Grant funding took effect on July 1, 2012. These cuts will negatively affect many groups, but its primary victims will be the lower income an at-risk students who may have to scramble for funds to make up for the loss. What makes Obama’s role in imposing these educational limitations on students who need substantive funding particularly problematic is that he did not mention the fact that he was approving the legislation during his campaign. Finally, the fact that the Republican plan for the Pell Grant would have involved deeper cuts than those put in place by the Democrats does not negate the negative impact that the latter party has exacted through the legislation.
As made evident by juxtaposing Deal’s HOPE fund cuts and Obama’s Pell Grant slashing, members of both the Republican and Democratic parties have a proclivity for problematizing the ability of the poor to attain a quality education through government assistance. Whether this is an acceptable way for politicians to govern should be left to informed and thinking citizens, but in a nation where legislators don’t make education a priority, the general populace may not possess the aforementioned attributes to the degree that most would like.