Friday, February 02, 2007

More help for college tuition

A few weeks ago a national survey by the online outfit edweek.org found that former N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt was the seventh-most influential person in national educational policy. Those who know about the four-term governor (1977-1985 and 1993-2001) and his energy and drive when it comes to education were wondering what kind of folks could possibly have more than Hunt. (They include Bill Gates, George Bush, Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton.) He’ll talk your ear off on policy issues in general, but his energy and appetite for schools policy is formidable.
Anyone with doubts about his influence in national education policy should have been at Thursday’s session of the annual Emerging Issues Forum at N.C. State University. Hunt launched the annual forum and what is now the Institute for Emerging Issues while he was governor, and each year he persuades top business, education, nonprofit and political officials to come to Raleigh to talk policy. This year the lineup included U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who dropped a news bomblet during her talk Thursday: the Bush administration will significantly increase support for Pell Grants to help college undergraduates pay the freight. Jane Stancill’s story in the News & Observer has the details.
This is a big deal. The Bush administration got a lot heat for cutting Pell Grants at a time when many students needed more assistance getting to college. North Carolina has traditionally kept tuition low at public universities and community colleges, but it has risen over time – and a lot of students think college is just too costly for them to even consider going.
Getting Spellings to come to Raleigh was one coup for Hunt. Getting her to announce the big increase in Pell Grants at the Raleigh forum was another. But Hunt had an inside track; he served on a task force with Spellings and pushed for the Pell Grant increase.
Here’s a link to Spellings’ speech.
And here’s a list of those edweek.org ranked as most influential on education:
1. Bill Gates
2. George W. Bush
3. Kati Haycock
4. G. Reid Lyon
5. Edward Kennedy
6. Bill Clinton
7. (Tie) - Richard Riley and Jim Hunt
9. Marshall “Mike” Smith
10. (Tie) - Linda Darling-Hammond and Margaret Spellings
12. George Miler
13. Chester Finn, Jr.

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