Making the Case for Federal Investment in Higher Education

President Greg Christy


An educated citizenry is one of the hallmarks that has made the United States the greatest country in the world, and our federal government has long played an important role in helping make a college education affordable.

It began with the GI Bill, which was created to help veterans of World War II. From 1944 to 1949, nearly 9 million veterans received close to $4 billion to further their education. Recognizing the need to help others in addition to military veterans, Congress created the Pell Grant, named after Sen. Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, in 1965. During 2020–21, qualifying students can receive as much as $6,345 in the form of a Pell Grant.

Each January I go to Washington, D.C., for the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities presidents’ conference. One day is set aside to visit senators and representatives. I always visit with members of our Iowa delegation, asking them for their continued support of the Pell Grant and federal loan programs. This year I also saw South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, two friends from my 12 years at Dakota Wesleyan University. In politics, as in all areas of life, relationships are key. I did not know then that our country would face a global pandemic this spring, and we would need their help more than ever.

By March 13 it became evident that to keep our students safe from COVID-19, we needed to send them home. In the weeks that followed, as the economy was drastically impacted, Congress had to act. Because of relationships we have with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, we were able to make a case for colleges and universities to be included in the CARES Act. We are grateful to have received $400,000 to help students and families who incurred unusual expenses due to the abrupt end to the semester, and another $400,000 to help NWC offset $1.6 million in lost revenue due to spring room and board refunds.

Colleges and universities like ours play an important economic role at the local, state and national level—in addition to our primary purpose of educating students for Christ-centered work that serves the common good. The investment the federal government makes in supporting students and families through programs like the GI Bill, Pell Grants, low-interest loans and special allocations help make a college education affordable for countless students. I’m grateful to be surviving the pandemic in a country that values and invests in higher education and its citizens’ futures.

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