Save Student Financial Aid
Online degree students paying for college need to take action to help prevent cuts to critical financial aid programs.
Saint Leo's financial literacy expert explains what's happening with the federal budget and why college students need to be concerned.
By Amanda Black,
Associate Director of Communication and Financial Literacy
Could you use another grant or scholarship?
How about an affordable federal loan to help cover educational expenses?
Even though most college students would answer these questions with a loud yes, Congress is actually trying to reduce financial aid – not increase it.
During the past five years, Congress has cut $30 billion in student aid funding and millions of students have been kicked out of the Pell Grant Program. Now Congress is proposing another $150 billion in cuts over the next 10 years.
Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a fiscal budget proposal for 2016 that would lock in sequester-level funding, significantly reducing federal funding for higher education.
Specifically, the budget would limit Pell Grants to $5,775 per academic year for the next 10 years. In addition, subsidized federal student loans would be eliminated.
This means that students would have to pay interest on all federal loans while enrolled in school. It's estimated this could cost students (on average) $3,800 more a year to borrow funds.
The proposed cuts are intended to mitigate budget shortfalls. However, doing so could come at a steep price for college students and their families. Some fear that cutting back on federal financial aid will push students to borrow more private loans. These loans have much higher interest rates and harsher repayment terms; they are not ideal for students struggling financially (as many are). Others speculate that stagnant Pell Grant amounts will prevent students from being able to afford school. Some may not be able to finish their degrees, while others may not even be able to enroll in the first place.
While this budget sets the tone for cutting student aid funding in the appropriations process this summer and budget deals this fall, there is hope.
Before the federal budget goes into effect – possibly freezing Pell Grant amounts and discontinuing subsidized loans – the bill must pass several committees, debates, and rewrites.
That means that there is time for all citizens – and college students, in particular – to take action.
The creation of a federal budget is a complicated process. Here are the basics greatly simplified.
If you think Congress should back off financial aid, there are steps you can take to make make your opinion known.
The Student Aid Alliance is a coalition of 77 higher education organizations working to secure and expand federal student aid programs. Their campaign – Save Student Aid – aims to protect student aid funding and urge legislators to stop the attack on federal student aid.
If you have not already contacted Congress, use the links below to send a message to the members of your Congressional delegation through the Saint Leo University Legislative Portal and let them know how you feel about the proposed cuts. You can use the prepared messages, edit them, or write your own.
Contact members of the House. Contact your Senators. Register for an account.
Voting is key to enacting change. It is imperative that you participate in elections and vote for individuals that represent your personal interests. By casting a vote, you are telling elected officials what is important to you – be it issues concerning higher education, health care reform, public safety, or other critical concerns.
We are all busy attending school, working full time jobs, raising kids, managing households – the list goes on. However, if we do not take time to learn about and vote on the issues that affect us, policy and legislation will not be enacted for our benefit. Instead, laws and change will be geared toward other interest groups – those who vocalize their needs and actively participate in democracy.
Do not forfeit your power to make a change – always cast a vote and make your voice heard.
A Certified Educator in Personal Finance®, Amanda Black is passionate about promoting financial literacy and helping student loan borrowers responsibly manage their debt. When she is not at work, Amanda enjoys jogging, sharing a glass of wine with friends, and traveling with her husband. Reach her at 800.240.7658 or Amanda.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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