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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Students and leaders defend Pell Grants

Arizona students and leaders in higher education called on the state’s senators to save Pell Grant funding on Wednesday.

Members of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group, Arizona Students’ Association and Arizona Board of Regents urged Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jon Kyl to vote against House Resolution 1 during a press conference call. The spending proposal would eliminate $5.7 billion in Pell Grant funding nationally.

Pell Grants provide financial assistance to 9.4 million college students nationwide. The resolution would reduce the maximum Pell Grant award by about 15 percent, from $5,550 to $4,705, according in Elma Delic, board chair of the Arizona Students’ Association.

The speakers did not expect the bill to pass in the senate and it did not pass following the press conference. The senate must pass a budget extension by the end of next week, according to Rich Williams, higher education advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

“”We are urging senators McCain and Kyl to make sure that Pell Grants are not on the table and to vote against any budget extension that includes cuts to Pell Grants,”” he said.

More than 5,500 students at Arizona institutions receive Pell Grants, according to Delic. She said they are already impacted by a lack of state-based financial aid and rising tuition costs.

“”The big point here — many of the students in Arizona are already on the tipping point,”” Delic said. “”Many of them would be forced to drop out of school (if Pell Grants were cut).””

The consequences of reducing the Pell Grant will defeat the purpose of the cuts, said Regent Fred DuVal.

“”The goal of deficit-reduction in the country ought to make us more competitive,”” he said. “”Cutting Pell Grants is completely counterproductive to American competitiveness.””

Cuts to Pell Grants increase inequality in higher education, DuVal said.

“”Fundamentally, the Pell decision is a choice between whether we’re going to fill our universities with wealthy kids regardless of their talent or we’re going to fill them with talented kids regardless of their income,”” he said.

One student shared her story during the call. Moriah Costa, an Arizona State University freshman, does not receive financial assistance from her mother and pays for school using the Pell Grant, merit-based scholarships and loans.

“”Even with my scholarships, I’m actually in debt,”” she said.

Costa said a cut would require her to take out more loans, which may eventually change her plans of going to law school.

“”I don’t know how much debt I want to go in to,”” she said.

Costa’s situation is mirrored by many students across the state, according to Leah Cox, assistant director of recruitment and retention in the UA Office of Student

Financial Aid. Cox said 38 percent of resident freshman at the UA receive the Pell Grant. This number has increased by about a thousand students over the past few years, she said.

Cuts to Pell Grants would impact students who are already struggling, Cox said.

“”We constantly have students coming into our office looking for assistance,”” she said. “”We’re not sure how we’re going to help them and help support them to realize their educational dreams.””

 

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