I’ve never worried if I would be able to continue my education and register for classes the following semester. But now, this is the reality some students may have to face if President Donald Trump’s proposed budget is approved, which includes a $3.9 billion cut to the Pell Grant program.
Pell Grant recipients are mostly students with a household income of less than $40,000 a year, according to USA Today College. Low-income Temple students could have received up to a $5,815 Pell Grant for the 2016-17 award year.
This is a significant amount of money for those who rely heavily on financial aid to afford college, and may not be able to continue their studies without these funds. In order to give all young people a fair chance to pursue their academic and career goals, the Trump administration should not allow the Pell Grant program to suffer in the 2018 budget.
“When you’re talking about the federal budget, that’s not a huge amount of savings when you consider how many people are likely to be hurt from this,” said Douglas Webber, an economics professor. “I don’t think these cuts are reasonable.”
According to White House documents, the justification for the budget cut is to put the program “on sound footing for the next decade.” But the budget fails to explain how a $3.9 billion cut would protect the future of the program. Meanwhile, Trump has chosen to increase military spending by $54 billion even though the U.S. already spends more on the military than the next seven highest-spending nations in the world total.
These types of decisions cannot be made arbitrarily. The Trump administration needs to keep in mind that not all incoming or current students are in the same financial situations. For some students at Temple, the Pell Grant is what decides whether they attend the university for the semester.
“I actually wouldn’t be able to go to college if I didn’t get funding from the government, because we’re a paycheck-to-paycheck kind of family,” said Illyria Feilke, a freshman university studies major.
Feilke received a Pell Grant this academic year. This grant is especially important for students like Feilke who have started their studies, but who wouldn’t be able to continue if the proposed budget takes effect.
Webber said cuts to the Pell Grant program would hurt college access.
“There’s going to be fewer low-income students, but there’s still going to be more than enough students who are willing to pay tuition to go to Temple,” Webber said.
Institutions will not suffer financially from this cut, but a cut to the Pell Grant program would mean a decrease in the socioeconomic diversity of students — something Temple often prides itself in.
Temple had the second highest percent of students to receive Pell Grants among state-related universities in the 2014-15 academic year — the most recently reported year — with 9,672 students receiving Pell Grants.
“Temple appreciates federal investment in programs that promote college access, student success and scientific discovery, all of which are absolutely fundamental to our mission and values,” Stephanie Ives, associate vice president and dean of students, told The Temple News in an email.
Temple should keep an eye on the proposed cuts to the Pell Grant program, in case students need help in finding additional resources to fund their education next semester.
Maggie Osafo, a junior actuarial science major, has received Pell Grants since her freshman year. A decrease in the grants she receives would require her to find more scholarships.
“I would need a way to cover the money the grant wouldn’t cover anymore,” Osafo said.
Derek Pearson, a junior chemistry major, has received Pell Grants for eight semesters. Pearson receives other forms of financial aid, but Pell Grants make up about half.
“To lose that [Pell Grants] would be detrimental because then you have to take time off from school to save up and then pay for a semester or a year to get back in school,” Pearson said.
If the budget is approved, the university should try to provide more opportunities for students like Pearson and Osafo with efforts like scholarships, increased work-study funding or partnerships with local businesses that will work to employ students.
But hopefully the university won’t be tasked with this job.
The president should value the education of our nation’s next generations of leaders, and he should realize cuts to the Pell Grant program do more harm than good.
Zari Tarazona can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.