Financial aid programs should not be cut

By Erika Johnson COLUMNIST
On April 1, 2012

With the cost of higher education on the rise, proposed cuts to federal aid programs will increase the financial burdens of families with college students. While paying for college is part of a students responsibility, the federal government should not cut more funding than absolutely necessary.

Though support for education should be a bigger concern for lawmakers, financial aid has taken the back burner in the present economy. Republicans in the House of Representatives are hoping to cut Pell Grant funding and double the interest rate on federal Stafford loans to 6.8 percent. If these proposed changes are passed, students would be required to pay interest on loans while in college and, starting July 1, graduate students will be required to pay interest on federal loans while still in school, according to loansafe.org.

The proposed changes, called the Ryan Budget after Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), are not minor cuts to grants and loans. His plan would cut $200 billion from Pell Grant funding over the next 10 years by eliminating eligibility for students who attend classes on a less-than-halftime schedule, according to the Huffington Post, which unfairly targets those who often work their way through college.

According to a 2010 report by the U.S. Department of Education, the number of undergraduates and graduates increased from 21 million to 22 million in a year. Pell Grant funding may not be able to support the increasing number of college students.

However, according to Education Week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said passage of the proposal would propel the educational success of this country backwards for years to come and deter students from continuing to pursue degrees.

According to finaid.org, college graduates leave school with an average debt of $23,186. If the interest rate were to double, the costs would only shoot up. For those just starting out in their careers and possibly starting a family, this is a huge amount of money to sacrifice.

When considering that 60 percent of those who receive Pell Grants also take out loans, according to the Huffington Post, lower-income students will be placed at an extreme disadvantage and could be discouraged from pursuing a degree at all.

The upward trend in higher education enrollment should encourage lawmakers to seek ways to ease the financial burdens of students, who will soon become leaders in the U.S.

Until this is a reality, lowering Ryans proposed budget cuts to Pell Grants and not raising the interest rates on federal student loans would more evenly distribute the financial burdens of college across student populations.

Erika Johnson is a sophomore majoring in architecture.

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