Saving grace for students threatened

Federal government efforts to curb spending may save billions of dollars over the next decade but will end up hurting students that need help paying for school.

Lyndi Bone/UVU Review
By Tia Trujillo
Opinions Writer

With government proposals for budget cuts in higher education, students with the most need may feel the pinch and this university could see a drop in enrollment as more students struggle to pay education expenses.

The federal government plans on saving billions of dollars by cutting funds from the higher education budget, and although there have not been any definite decisions made concerning Pell grants, there have been some recent proposals for the higher education budget that would cut $100 billion from Pell grants and other higher education programs over the next decade.

Pell grants have been greatly overspent and Congress has the challenge to balance the annual budget. There are two proposals concerning the federally funded Pell grants that over 9 million students receive each year.

The first is to cut down the current maximum amount for a Pell Grant from $5,550 to $4,655. It is said that the change would save $2 billion over the next year and $29 billion over the next decade.

For some students, the $845 that could be cut is a major help towards paying their tuition without taking out student loans. Recently, the House passed this bill, but was stopped by the Senate. The proposal may be rewritten or tossed out altogether.

The second proposal is to end the “year round Pell” that lets students collect two grants in a calendar year, making the second grant available for the summer semester. Cutting this would save $8 billion next year and $60 billion over a decade. This bill is yet to be written and has not yet been presented to the House.

Cutting the summer program would hurt students who use the extra funding to get a semester closer to graduation and with fewer student loans to pay off. Last summer this university saw an enrollment increase of 31 percent. If the funding for summer semesters is cut, enrollment could return to its original standing, as students would have to go part-time in either the fall or spring semester to have left over Pell grant funding or apply for student loans to cover the cost of the summer semester.

“The loss would be devastating,” said financial director Joanna McCormick. “Now would be a good time for students to pay attention to what’s going on in the government. As issues arise, students may want to contact their legislature.”

One advantage that the students do have is that this university maintains one of cheapest per-semester tuition costs in the state. It also, however, has many non-traditional students, including those over 25 years old and those who have children. Some are single parents and some come from a lower income bracket. Many rely on Pell grants to pay for or aid in paying for their educations.

Although the government has the job of balancing the federal budget, cutting down the higher education funding that so many of the students in need cannot pay for school would be devastating to those who, without it, cannot afford to attend and may be unable to finish their degrees.

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