Arne on Cost of College and Pell Grants

Secretary Arne Duncan sat down recently to answer questions he received via social media, email and mail. Zack wanted to know if Arne thought the rising cost of college would keep Americans from a post-secondary education.

Arne says that college is the best investment one can make, and explains how the Obama Administration is working to keep the cost of college low, as well as it’s unprecedented investment in Pell Grants, and making repayment options easier.

However, Arne says keeping college costs low is a shared responsibility. States need to invest in education, and colleges and universities need to help keep tuition low and build cultures around college completion.

Arne also answers Jason’s question about Pell Grants, explaining that Pell Grants are the best investment we can make for a young person’s future and for a strong economy.

Watch the video:

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.


  1. Hi there,
    If this isnt the right place to be leaving this comment, please let me know who i should contact. My daughter is enrolled in Ashford university in San Diego. She has been literally ripped off by their unethical federal student aid process. Where do we go for help?
    Someone needs to do something quickly. Many reliable sources have publicly disclosed that there is plenty of evidence of fraud, willful deception, personal enrichment, double-dipping of public funds etc. Everyday, thousands of new individuals are sucked into this diploma mill. All my daughter wants is to earn her teaching certificate.
    Please help!

  2. I think that it’s difficult being a faculty member in a community college knowing that some receive grant money and they never come to class. I would suspect that probably 10% of those students ever finish the course. It’s frustrating and often beyond my control.

  3. I saw an interesting belligerent idea today that got me thinking. A blogger posited that we should cancel all college subsidy, as we were talking about budget and debt issues.
    Not constructive, says I. But we could realistically raise the bar FOR REAL on our national academic achievement requirement. As example, consider that we have MANY women of color from inner-city ganglands, but far fewer men. Too touchy? I’ve worked all over the nation, in skilled and semiskilled occupations, and I know for a fact that the males in America get into college without ever actually reading a book REGULARLY. I could have passed the average college entrance exam in 7th grade, but many in college for a year still can’t pass the thing. We offer backed MANDATORY h.s. classes that college students are expected to already know on the public dime. We can save BILLIONS PER YEAR by raising the requirement on ALL prospective college students–INCLUDING ATHLETES. No C averages, and no exceptions without ‘special’ exemption such as handicap-special need. If applied today, it would cut our educational funding need immediately, by billions per year, until us males catch up. Not good enough? So we allow colleges to exploit and keep a half trillion a year or so off of talented students. Students that WE pay for, in talents they usually take on in public funded schools. Legally, we CAN certainly attach revenue from this blatant exploitation of our funding, and make them lay some down for permanently injured students in athletics. Some more billions per year, and fixing many many problems. Are we truly progressive in our educational achievements as a nation? Now while I easily understood how cutting all subsidy is even worse than the straight-up capitalism that our system is now, I can’t think of why my idea to demand academic achievement for college funding is a bad idea. It’s something that will pay off FOREVER. We have maybe 400 ACTUAL 4 and 5 star football recruits each college year. Guys with serious physical training backed by exemplary academic achievement. But my idea would generate thousands per year inside a few short years. Think that would tickle an NFL owners’ fancy? Now as a nation made up of Departments, I consider that each department MUST adapt; right now, to give our nation time to recover. This gives the DoEdu a few years, and I think it can be done with EVERY DEPARTMENT. Demand Accountability, Get A Better America. First principles–Marcus Aurelius.

  4. With the kind of jobs I can get just out of high school I can pay for gas, groceries, and electricity. I eat meager meals (lentils and eggs), I ride my bike everywhere, I keep my thermostat in the 80s, and I don’t have insurance.

    I barely qualified for a Pell Grant and have just enough to cover my fees and books for the year, with nothing to pay for the summer term. That pushes graduation out another full year, when I could be finishing early. It’s tough to get into some classes and some must be taken in sequence, so having to miss summer is quite detrimental to scheduling the rest of the year.

    In my opinion, education should be getting military-grade funding. If we’re going into crippling inflation and financial collapse at least we’ll have the population prepared to build our way out. Tanks and V-TOLs won’t get us anywhere.

    • I totally feel for you Odd Lots sometimes have pcs $99. or you can look on free or craigs list for cheap laptop. There is also the Division of Vocational Rehab at most unemployment offices that pay 100% of what pell grants don’t pay or if Pell denies you. Hope this helps. Also on fixed income both me and my husband. I was getting $750 monthly until SS realized we’re married and then they cut me to $60monthly!!!! They also owed me almost $30,000 for taking so long to pay me and I find out that they changed that too. They only give you 2100 every six months for the first three payments 6months apart then if anything is left then they finally send the last installment. All they are doing is floating our money for as long as they can and use it for

  5. I recently went back to get my doctorate in Special Education. I was surprised to find out that the student loan I was offered to help me complete my studies was over 6% for doctorate students. I find myself using a line of equity with a variable rate of 4% to help me pay for my education.

    I also learned that the United States has a low number of doctorate graduates and will need them in the coming years, especially in education. As a teacher, I only make around 60k a year working with the disabled. It is not surprising to see why many people do not go into this field. The government should take steps to provide support and incentives to educators to continue their education beyond masters degrees.

    • I concur with this person’s assessment of the cost of getting a Master and/or a Doctorate degree. My loans are 0ver 100,000 thousand dollars, my husband is 72, receives a SSI check for $1,500 and no one will hire him because of his age. I am at retirement age (monthly salary 1,800) but must continue to work because of outstanding student loans. I decided to go back to school with the hopes of earning a better salary however, that has not happened. Is there not something in place to assist older adults who want to return to college? I realize this was something I decided to do about twenty years ago but, I did not think my financial picture for the future would be so bleak. HELP! “drowning in student loan debt”

      I am in a financial aid hardship with no where to turn to for help!

      • You can go to your state site and look on the education category. A lot of times they have grants and requirements for them. Essays also can earn you extra money. I don’t want to get too personal but almost every unemployment agency has what they call DVR Division of vocational rehab if you have any type of disability at all depression,ptsd,recovering drug/alcohol, etc. They pay 100% of what pell grant and FAFSA don’t pay. I have a daughter in Rutgers Mason Gross and last year she went for free. This year we have to pay2,500 per semester which we don’t have. Had to turn to family member to co-sign student loans. I was also told they got much less money this year and even the work study program was cut. My kid is terrified of Mitt Rodney because he wants to get rid of the Pell Grants which would be even more horrible than the way things are now. yikes!!! Really scarey for our kids and their futures. Bestof luck to you

  6. What a crock!! Now you (the government) are making it so that young people are having to rely on their parents to help them with college! My 22 year old was denied his pell grant because he had to figure in my income with his?!? Why do young people have to use their parents income when they are providing for themselves? It was never like this until THIS year. His computer crashed and now because his loans just cover his tuition and books it falls on me to buy him a computer or he has to do without? I have 5 kids and I cannot afford college for them so they have to rely on grants and loans but now they are being denied the grants…as I said what a crock!!

    • Everyone can afford college depending on where they decide to go. If you have not saved money for college, your community college or state colleges are there for your student….and affordable. You cannot afford out of state schools if you have not saved, and if your student does not meet the schools criteria for a lot of merit aid at private colleges…your purchase will be a community college or state school. What’s so bad about that? An expensive college is not for everyone. That’s the way it works.

    • FYI: I am a 2011 graduate of a 4-year university. I graduated in 4 years. I of course was required to claim my parents when I filled out my FAFSA even though they did not contribute to my education (this was not new this year). While many of my friends got grants and didn’t work, I worked 25-35 hours per week during school, took out the $25,000 loan offered by the government and subsidized with $7500 in private student loans. Mind you, these loans did not always cover my tuition…I also paid out of pocket. I worked full time during the summers and saved as much as I could. (I started school with $1500 in savings). 16 months later, I only have $25,000 left on my student loans and plans to pay that off in five years. No grants, no help from the government except the Direct Loans which are at 5-7% interest when my private loans were only around 3%. I did it. Others can too (without help from their parents) if they handle their money and WORK. The one thing my parents did do was keep me on their health insurance plan, but I still paid for my copays, etc. In my experience, most of my friends had jobs, but not to pay for school persay, but to fund their hobbies/vacations. I honestly think people should stop complaining about not getting a handout and work for what you get. That’s what I did–I haven’t taken a real vacation since I was a child, but my degree was definitely worth it.

      • AMEN Lianne!!

        Sez I:
        The rest of you should shut up and quit complaining because Big Brother didn’t do enough so you don’t have to work.

        How about having a bit of pride in your country and serving in the military for a few years. I paid $1800 into a college tuition program in the military and have been going to school using that since 2006 when I retired from the Army.

        If you think our government is supposed to take care of you, then do something to help take care of it first.

        Or, alternately, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE and see if some other country will pay for your college!

        Steamed Vet

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