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COLLEGE PARK, March 3rd - As the U.S. Senate began negotiations to stave off a federal government shutdown, representatives from the Maryland Public Interest Research Group were joined by Krystala Skordalos, a Maryland PIRG student leader at University of Maryland College Park to urge the Senate to focus their spending cuts on wasteful handouts to narrow special interests, not vital investment to college aid.
The House-passed spending resolution makes deep cuts to the Pell Grant while largely leaving in place wasteful subsidies and tax loopholes for special interests. Pell Grants are the Federal governments’ cornerstone financial aid program that 9.4 million college students rely on each year to pay for the college courses that are fueling our recovering workforce and economy.
“Tough choices are supposed come only after the easy ones,” said Carly Mercer, Maryland PIRG Associate. “It’s difficult to imagine how cuts to Pell Grants come before subsidies to BP and Goldman Sachs. And yet, that’s exactly what the House resolution does.”
The cuts slash the maximum award a student can receive by $845, a little more than 15%, for the students who can afford it the least. Next school year, a student currently receiving the $5,550 maximum award would see their aid dropped to $4,705. Because of the severity of these cuts, the average Pell award will drop $785 while 1.7 million students would lose access to their grant entirely.
In Maryland, 122,000 students will receive a Pell grant next year. Should the House spending plan become law, our state will lose $71 million in Pell funding, a cut from $340.7 million to $269.7 million.
“Many of these students are already at the tipping point; many would be forced to drop out of school,” said Krystala Skordalos.
Education drives economic growth. Eighty percent of the fastest growing jobs in America demand training above a high school level. Current estimates show America needs 22 million more degrees by 2018, however we are on pace to be 3 million short because of high college costs.
In the current economy, 43 states have already cut funding to higher education, pushing more costs onto students themselves. Rising costs will prevent over three million college qualified students from low and moderate-income backgrounds from getting a degree this decade. Pell Grant funding must be maintained in order to deliver the skilled workers our economy demands.
Maryland PIRG has helped identify over $600 billion in spending reductions over 5 years that have support across the political spectrum. The spending reductions detailed in our report amount to more than the reductions called for in the House passed resolution.
“Rather than cutting education and risking the health of our workforce and economic recovery, Congress should focus on wasteful, special interest giveaways and other low-hanging fruit,” Mercer said. “We urge Senator Cardin and Mikulski to vote against any budget extension that includes cuts to Pell grants.”
District and State Pell information can be found here:
Additional information on education cuts in HR 1 can be found at:
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