Federal student aid could be on the chopping block if H.R. 1 passes in the Senate.
On Feb.19, the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 1 – a bill that would drastically reduce federal student aid and research funding for colleges across the country.
The bill, which still has to go through the Senate, contains massive cuts to many educational grant and aid programs.
If the bill passes, the Federal Pell Grant program, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program and Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership program are among the cuts in student aid that will take the biggest hits.
According to section 1831 of the bill, the Pell Grant maximum will be put at $4,015, compared to $5,550 in last year’s budget – an $845 reduction.
The bill also eliminates all funding for the FSEOG and LEAP programs in next year’s budget, according to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
“The cutback on these [financial] awards now is a real setback for low-income and middle-income students, especially in public higher education,” said Dr. William Cutler, a professor in the College of Education. “Not having these grants at the levels that Congress extended them to a couple years ago is a problem.”
Cutler added that these grants have never been big enough to offset the cost of college, but they have become necessary to drive down some higher education expenses.
Temple could be affected more than other schools as a result of these cuts, Cutler said.
“What differentiates Temple from [University of Pennsylvania], is that Penn has all kinds of endowment money [and] private scholarship money that it can use to help its applicants pay for their bills,” Cutler added. “Temple doesn’t have that.”
Cutler also said more students would be likely to take out more loans and seek independent aid with the cuts, which could result in more debt for students after college.
The other aspect of higher education that could experience a budget cut is research funding.
As a result of losing federal funding for research, Gary Mucciaroni, a professor of political science, said colleges and universities “can’t go ahead with their research.”
On the same note, Cutler said colleges and universities claim to do three things: teach, service and research. As a result of such cuts, there could be an increased emphasis on teaching instead of research.
“One of the consequences of less research funding could be increased teaching loads or increased class sizes,” Cutler added. “In other words, an increased emphasis from research to teaching. I think undergraduate students would be the poorer for that because research-active faculty bring the latest in their disciplines to the classroom, and that benefits students.”
“It sounds like education is being targeted for more cuts than other big parts of the budget like social security, Medicare, Medicaid and defense,” Mucciaroni said.
Mucciaroni added that education is discretionary spending, which is more easily cut compared to Medicare and social security, which are entitlements and require lawmakers to actually change the law in order to cut or change them.
He added that entitlements and other big parts of the budget have major corporations and lobbyists behind them, whereas education does not because many students are not politically involved.
“It’s not fair at all,” said Patrick Brier, a senior history major who receives grant money. “My friends and a lot of people rely on [grants] greatly, and without them, many people obviously wouldn’t be able [to] receive an education.”
“Cuts that the House of Representatives make may not end up being the actual cuts that come to fruition,” Mucciaroni said. “Republicans campaigned in the last election on cutting the budget severely, so they are going to be more draconian in their cuts. Whether those cuts or whatever part of them survives, [in] the Senate and the president remains to be [approved], and that’s what we’ll see in the coming months.”
Mucciaroni added this is not close to the end of the budget process in Congress, but only the “opening round in the budget battle.”
Sean Carlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.