Numbers tell stories.
This month, President Bush proposed a $56 billion education budget for fiscal 2006, nearly 1 percent less than this year's spending. If approved by Congress, it would represent the first reduction in federal support for education in a decade.
Bush sees in the numbers a strengthened commitment in key places, citing more money for the No Child Left Behind Act and his plan to eliminate the relatively small Perkins Loan Program and add that money -- more than $1 billion a year -- to Pell Grants.Pell Grants are the cornerstone of federal financial aid to college students. Bush wants to increase each grant -- now at a maximum of $4,050 -- by up to $100 a year for the next five years.
Critics, however, see the numbers as a weakening of federal support, largely at the expense of low- and middle-income students. They say that higher education costs are going up at least $500 a year -- far more than the proposed grant increase.
There is less debate about the numbers showing how fast college tuition is rising. Or about how the distribution of state and institutional grant money has, in recent years, benefited middle- and upper-income students more than the poor.
Here are some numbers that, taken together, help tell the story of today's costs of education: