Pell Money in Space?
There are better ways to use surplus Pell funds.
The AP reports that Trump’s administration wants to re-purpose surplus Pell grant money for space exploration: Trump targets Pell Grant money for NASA’s budget boost.
Under a budget amendment sent to Congress Monday evening, the administration would use an additional $1.9 billion in surplus Pell Grant money to fund other budget priorities, including an infusion of new cash for NASA “so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!” President Donald Trump tweeted.
“This does not cut any spending for Pell Grant programs as the budget continues to ensure all students will get their full Pell Grant and keeps the program on sound fiscal footing,” Office of Management and Budget spokesman Wesley Denton said in a statement.
Enrollment in the program has declined since 2011, leading to a surplus of nearly $9 billion, according to the budget office. The administration had originally proposed using $2 billion of that surplus to fund other spending. The new request brings that total to $3.9 billion, which OMB described as similar to its request in the 2018 budget. The administration proposed a similar cancellation of unobligated Pell grant money for 2019, but later backed off the idea.
My initial thought on this is that if there is a surplus perhaps further spending on higher education would be the the way to go here. This is especially true knowing, as I do, how much Pell grants help students attend college as well as how much state level funding cuts have led to tuition increases.
And look, I am an official Space Nerd who used to get up early to watch space shuttle launches. Further, the romantic in me would love to see humans on the moon and on Mars. However, the realist in me can’t currently think of a reason to go to the moon that is worth the cost. And, further, the challenges (and costs) of going to Mars are immense.
Certainly, the following does not strike me as a compelling reason to divert billions away from other needed programs:
“Under my Administration, we are restoring @NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars,” he wrote.
Vice President Mike Pence has called for landing astronauts on the moon within five years, and has said NASA needs to achieve that goal “by any means necessary.” This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing.
“Greatness” is not a policy goal. It certainly isn’t a reason to spend that kind of money when there are other, far more pressing, needs.