Students Express Concern with Proposed Pell Grant Cuts

College students will take a bit hit if the proposed Republican budget, containing severe cuts to the popular Pell Grant program, passes Congress. PHOTO: Paul Vladuchick via Flickr

By Tony Aguilar
Coachella Unincorporated


Federal Financial Aid for many college students stands on the brink of annihilation if the newly proposed Republican budget passes in Congress. If passed, the number of students receiving the widely popular and hefty Pell grant would be reduced by an estimated one million students.

As frustration between the haves and have-nots grows increasingly around the globe, students are becoming more involved than ever and voicing their opinion.

“If they cut my Pell Grant I won’t be able to afford my college expenses, and I will be forced to drop out of college,” said College of the Desert student Jose Martinez, 19, of Mecca.

According to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s office website, more than 4,000 students at College of the Desert in Palm Desert received an estimated $12,797, 626 in the 2010-2011 academic school year. Other grants that College of the Desert students receive include the Cal Grant B and C, the EOPS grant and Care Grant.

According to the Department of Education’s website, “Pell Grant recipients have increased more than 50 percent since 2008.”

“It just doesn’t make sense, more and more students are going to college but they are making all these cuts to education,” says Crystal Juarez, 21, of Coachella.

As voted on and approved in Congress, beginning in July of 2012 the number of semesters that a student can receive the Pell Grant has been reduced from 18 to 12 semesters. Early numbers estimate that as many as 100,000 of the nine million Pell Grant recipients would no longer qualify for the funds.

“Classes are being cut which means it will take students like me longer (more semesters) to graduate, yet they’re reducing the number of semesters we can receive the Pell Grant,” said Chris Hernandez, 22, of Coachella. “I just don’t get our government.”

Student organizations such as the American Student Association of Community Colleges (ASACC) advocate and fight year round to keep the federal government from making further cuts to education. At their yearly conference in Washington DC last month, ASACC voted to make saving the Pell Grant program their number one priority.

“How are we suppose to be successful if they continue to take away all of the tools that we need to be successful?” said Oscar Castillo, 21, of Thermal. “I am the first to go college in my family, I want to set an example for my little brothers and sisters, but if these cuts are made I will be anything but that. I will be the opposite.”

If the proposed Republican Budget passed, cuts to Federal Financial Aid would force millions of college bound students to take out thousands of dollars in student loans to pay for their schooling.

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2 thoughts on “Students Express Concern with Proposed Pell Grant Cuts

  • April 19, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    It’s been hard to watch the continued attack on higher education accessibility. This story seems to have a longer history. How do we reconcile the fact that in 1960 the California Master Plan for Higher Education intended to provide students with free or low cost education, so that members of society can have tools to continue building communities, with today’s outrageous tuition/fee rates? We have to think about the effects of the Civil Rights Movement and the demand for equal access to important social institutions, such as universities. We have to take into account, also, the reaction by conservatives to fight against the gains made in the 60s: Reagan’s and Clinton’s attack on welfare and unions as well as the 1970s “tax revolt” in California. In fact, Roger Freeman advised Ronald Reagan in 1970, as he was running for Governor of CA, “We are in danger of producing an educated proletariat. That’s dynamite! We have to be selective about who we allow through higher education.” Freeman went on to work for Nixon’s admin as one of the top education advisors.

    Not only a “proletariat” (working class people) but also an educated body of people of color threatened those like Freeman. Proposition 209 resulted in a decline of Latinos and black students system wide.

    Its interesting that at a time with pell grants are being cut, “middle class” students are being considered over the most underprivileged with the “Middle Class Scholarship Plan.” It shouldn’t have to be this way. Middle class and “proletariats” (in Freeman’s words) should have the same low-cost education that was promised by the Master Plan in the 60s. What changed? Why did society think it a good idea then and not now to invest in education? Today we pay more for prisons than we do education. What changed? My hunch is that the only thing missing is the pressure from below (the people), as conservatives have existed long before. My hunch is that we need to rebuild the pressures much like the Civil Rights Movements of the 60s. They taught us that voting was only one part of participating; and organizing on the ground beyond electoral politics mattered more.

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