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Federal Student Aid in Danger

Dorianna Valerio

The Congressional Super Committee, which is composed of six Democrats and six Republicans, and was created by Congress to find a way to reduce the national debt, failed to come up with a plan to reduce the nation’s deficit over the next 10 years. Now, many programs, including the federal student aid program, are in jeopardy of being cut.

“Cuts to student aid programs are on the table. Proposals to cut Pell Grants and to eliminate the in-school interest exemption are especially troubling,” said Tony Pals, the director of communication for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).

On November 9, C.W. Post Provost Dr. Paul Forestell issued an email urging students to help save the federal student aid program by signing an online statement of support on the website

The federal government funds a small number of student aid programs. The largest program, the Pell Grant program, is facing most of the cuts, according to Jon Fansmith, the associate director for the American Council of Education. “Congress has eliminated the Year-Round Pell Grant, which provided additional Pell Grant support to students who attend school year round,” he added.

The Pell Grant is a federal program that provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduates. The maxim amount for the 2011-2012 award year is approximately $5,500. The Pell grant differs from a loan in which it does not have to be repaid. The Pell grant is available at 5,400 participating post-secondary intuitions including C.W. Post.

Approximately 28 percent of Post students receive Pell Grants and students are automatically processed to see if they qualify for the grant when they submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The proposed cut to the program will affect undergraduate students, graduate students and incoming freshmen.

The in-school interest exemption, which is a program that pays the interest on loans taken out by graduate and professional students while attending school, is in jeopardy. Also in danger are the incentives awarded to students who pay their loans on time.

Some federal student aid programs, according to Pals, that have already seen cuts this year include: Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP), TRIO programs, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) Program, and graduate education programs. These cuts amount to more than $30 billion.

If the proposed cuts happen, students who are eligible to receive and have received the grants run the risk of receiving smaller Pell Grants.

Nicole Castellano, a senior English writing major, believes it’s a bad idea to cut the federal student aid program, “The students will suffer because they won’t be able to afford college. The colleges will suffer because they will lose students. Also, the economy will suffer because there will be less college graduates that will have special skills meant for the workforce,” she theorized.

A recent Georgetown University study determined that by the year 2018, there will be three million more jobs available to college graduates than there are college graduates to fill those positions, according to Fansmith. “We know that there is no better investment than a college education. More and more careers now require a post-secondary education.”

However, as the threat looms, students will probably need to depend more on borrowing money, working more while in school and actual assistance from the university or college they are attending.

Nicole Duckham, junior political science major, said she would probably need to pick up more hours at work if the cuts were to occur. “I think it’s ridiculous that Congress would cut federal student aid,” she said. “We’ve been talking about trying to have the most intellectual people studying here in the U.S. and producing the top people in math, science, etc. Yet, here we are thinking about cutting the federal aid that many students use to pay their tuition.”

Long Island University awards more than $200 million in financial aid and scholarships, university-wide, according to Rita Langdon, associate provost and director of Public Relations. The Long Island University/C.W. Post website states that 85 percent of Post students receive financial aid. Langdon claims that Long Island University is working with the Student Aid Alliance and the NAICU to protect the federal student aid program.

In a statement from Christopher A. Williams, the associate vice president for public policy, government and foundation relations at Long Island University, he stated that Long Island University is working with these organizations by engaging the Long Island University in e-advocacy efforts. These efforts result in the delivery of thousands of personalized email messages that are sent to elected officials and policymakers in Albany and Washington, D.C.

The Long Island University partnership with NAICU, includes letter-writing campaigns and targeted op-eds that support federal higher education programs.

“The government and university should work together to find a solution,” said Julio Pacora, an undeclared major. “There are many people in politics that talk about implementing and improving our education, but none of this will be possible if this cut to federal assistance turns into reality,” he added.

The fight to save federal aid continues on Capitol Hill where politicians are advocating for the program, according to Fansmith .

Congressman Steve Israel released the following statement to The Pioneer: “In order to out-compete China and create new jobs, we need to out-educate the rest of the world. Our federal student loan programs are critical support for students seeking higher education. I’ve been an ardent supporter of these programs and will continue to fight for them.”

The Communications Director for Congressman Timothy Bishop issued a similar statement of support. According to the statement, Congressman Bishop will continue to fight for the programs that make college more affordable for students without indebting them.

While Long Island University does provide assistance in the form of scholarships and grants, the fact is that the Super Committee has failed to reach an agreement. The failure means mandatory budget cuts for defense and discretionary spending—federal student aid is a discretionary program.

The federal student aid program is instrumental in helping to lessen the burden of paying for college and obtaining a degree. “If the federal student aid programs are protected, the future for college students nationwide will be bright. For students who enroll in higher education and earn a degree, it will be the best investment they ever make,” Pals said.

On November 18, the Student Aid Alliance provided the Super Committee with 100,000 signatures in support of the federal student aid program. However, because the committee failed to reach an agreement, the Student Aid Alliance is calling for more signatures.

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