Pell Grants must not be target of budget cuts

In an attempt to address federal budget woes, Republicans in the House of Representatives are looking to take a $100 billion chunk out of President Barack Obama’s budget proposal.

However, proposed cuts to Federal Pell Grants are troubling and merit reconsideration by House leaders and, if necessary, efforts from the Democratic-controlled Senate to defeat the legislation.

Already, the maximum amount of money a low-income college student can receive from a Pell Grant for an academic school year is $5,550.

The proposed changes would remove 1.7 million students from eligibility for the grant, with remaining students seeing a 15 percent reduction in awards – totaling $845 for the neediest students receiving the maximum award.

The award’s reduction could be the equivalent of two months of rent money for many students sharing an apartment.

Cuts to Pell Grant funding will inevitably affect low-income college students disproportionately, which is especially troublesome since the group is the most underrepresented on university campuses and the most in need of a college degree to create an escape route from vicious cycles of poverty and limited life opportunities.

The pain of cuts to the federal budget don’t necessarily need to fall so heavily on the shoulders of the most underprivileged young people; they should perhaps be aimed at taking money away form undertakings that may not be as critical.

Obvious solutions, like cutting earmarks that grant money only to specific constituencies – which is already understood and targeted by leaders across the political spectrum – is a good place to start. Also, efforts to make certain cuts to education spending, like those promoted by Obama, which, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, call for an elimination of the practice of government subsidizing interest payments for current professional and graduate students.

Enrolling in college and successfully graduating are difficult enough for low-income students receiving the $5,550 award that often goes towards paying not just tuition, but food, rent, transportation and other critical costs that couldn’t be afforded otherwise.

House Republicans must resist the temptation to reduce governmental spending by taking money out of the pockets of poor college students, though this group may be an easier target than more affluent members of U.S. society who could more easily deflect attempts to reduce their free money from the government via tax breaks and subsides.

Indeed, non-defense discretionary spending only accounts for 15 percent of the entire federal budget, according to

Budget cuts need to be made, but not at the expense of those who are trying to improve, not only themselves and their family’s socio-economic status, but also the number of educated and middle class citizens in the U.S.