Cutting aid to students is counterproductive

Not rich? Still want to go to college? Sorry. A budget proposal drafted by the House of Representatives would cut $61 billion from the federal budget, including deep cuts to need-based financial aid Pell Grants. Pell Grants are need-based federal grants sponsored by the Department of Education. Since 1973, they have provided financial assistance for low-income families. The cuts would decrease the maximum possible aid award from $5,550 to $4,705 – 15 percent less than the 2010-11 academic year. According to an article in U.S. News and World Report, about 1.7 million students who receive less than the full amount would become ineligible under the reformed program. Last fall, the Burlington Free Press reported that 15 percent of UVM students received Pell Grants. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said that “Vermont college students would see their tuition assistance fall by $700.” A press release from his office noted that “13,000 low-income Vermont college students would lose some or all of their Pell grants.” Cutting funding for Pell Grants hurts the poorest college students. Eligibility is determined largely by the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) portion of the FAFSA. For the 2010-11 academic year, the highest EFC one could have and qualify for Pell Grants was $5,273. At a time when, as The Cynic has reported, the cost of undergraduate tuition has continuously outpaced inflation and the SSA Cost of Living Adjustment, cutting Pell Grants cuts aid to students at a time when they most need it. It makes no sense to sacrifice the future of America by cutting the access to and quality of education. The current budget proposal also calls for cuts to the Head Start program, which could affect 200,000 students. The huge national debt is a concern that all members of Congress are trying to grapple with, yet these programs aren’t what got us into this hole. “We don’t face the current deficit because of Head Start,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Last year, $33 billion federal dollars were allocated for Pell grants; cutting the average Pell grant by 17 percent isn’t worth preventing thousands of students the opportunity to go to college. Investment in education is an investment in the future. If passed, this legislation would limit the access of low-income students to higher education.  Going to college shouldn’t just be for wealthy students, but with the increasing cost to attend UVM as an in-state student, cuts to Pell Grants would prevent low-income Vermonters from getting the best education they can.