As I wrote this week, the Pell Grant Program is on the chopping block as part of the federal budget negotiations.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan emphasized the program's importance during a Senate hearing Wednesday.

Duncan listed the areas in which he wants to "boost investments in education in order to secure America's future." First on the list? Pell grants. Specifically, "closing the Pell shortfall both through efficiencies and more resources."

He continued:

We all have to get better—and in order to get better—we must continue to invest in programs that are working.

The Pell Grant Program is helping millions of young people and adults get new skills for the jobs of tomorrow. Demand has skyrocketed from six million to nine million grants in four years.

College has never been more necessary for success in the global economy but it has never been more expensive and out of reach for increasing numbers of Americans. We can't afford to go backwards. We must once again lead the world in college graduates.