Pell Grant Cuts: RI Students at Risk
Saturday, April 02, 2011
Thousands of low-income college students in the state would be at risk of losing at least a portion of their federal Pell Grants if Washington Republicans have their way, members of Rhode Island’s Congressional
House Republicans have already voted to cut the maximum amount of Pell Grant money from $5,500 to $4,655, a 15 percent slash. But the U.S. Senate is refusing to allow the nation’s neediest students to lose out on federal dollars, according to Senator Jack Reed (at left below).
“Giving young people an opportunity to get an education is the key to keeping our country competitive. Slashing Pell grants would break a promise to millions of students and shortchange our economic future,” Reed said Friday. “Historically, Pell Grants have enjoyed bipartisan support, and we are going to need a bipartisan solution to keep this higher education assistance viable."
Devastating To Rhode Island Students
Daniel Egan, President of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island, said any cuts to Pell Grants would be devastating to Rhode Island students. According to Egan, nearly 30,000 Ocean State students received over $100 million in Pell Grants this year.
The Pell Grant, which is named after legendary Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell, began over 40 years ago following the passing of the Higher Education Act on 1965. Every school in the state has students receiving Pell Grants, with the average student receiving roughly $3,500 each year.
JWU and Brown Speak Out
By far, the two colleges in the state receiving the most Pell Grant money are Johnson & Wales and the Community College of Rhode Island. More than half of the state’s Pell Grant recipients attend these two institutions.
Johnson & Wales spokesperson Lisa Pelosi said while the university continues to raise its financial aid, the economic downturn has seen more students turn to Pell Grants for help.
“Since the downturn in the economy, we have seen the percentage of our students eligible for Pell Grants increase every year since 2008,” Pelosi said. “Any reduction in higher education funding sources would put more of a strain on our students' and their families' ability to afford an undergraduate education which is critical to the workforce of the 21st century.”
At Brown University, almost 1,000 students would be impacted by cuts to the Pell Grant, according to Marisa Quinn, vice president of Public Affairs and University Relations. Quinn said the proposed reductions would undermine financial aid packages for students who need it the most.
Whitehouse: Pell Grants Are Vital
All four members of Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation have come out in support of Pell Grants, which President Obama agreed to increase last year when he signed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act.
In addition to Reed, Senator Whitehouse said he will continue to fight the proposed cuts.
“With the cost of higher education continuing to rise, it’s important to make sure Pell Grants can really help Rhode Islanders seeking a college education,” said Senator Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Budget and HELP Committees. “I’ll continue advocating in the Senate to uphold the values of former Senator Pell and make sure this vital program stays strong.”
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