Feb 012011
Authors: Erin Udell

While the recent passing of House Resolution 38 may mean changes for the future of higher education funding, CSU students have nothing to fear as of yet.

The resolution, which was passed in the House of Representatives on Jan. 25 with a 58 percent vote, will give the Budget Committee chair authority to reduce non-security spending to fiscal year 2008 levels.

According to a press release from the United States Student Association, USSA, these cuts could lead to a 24 percent reduction in the Pell Grant, which provides need-based grants to certain low-income students seeking a post-secondary education.

“If the House resolution is abided by in the creation of the budget and funds are returned to 2008 levels, the Pell Grant will suffer,” said Lindsay McCluskey, USSA president.

However, as part of CSU’s Commitment to Colorado, a program meant to assure that students will be able to afford an education, standard tuition and general fees may be covered for Colorado resident, Pell Grant-eligible students in the 2011-12 academic year.

CSU students eligible for the Pell Grant can receive institutional, federal and state grants in addition to any scholarships or loans they may qualify for.

According to a CSU news release, for the 2010-11 academic year, the Pell Grant-eligible students who are covered under the Commitment to Colorado would pay nothing, rather than $6,986 for tuition and fees. About 3,016 students may qualify for this funding.

But, with funding cuts in the future, many students are still concerned.

“I know they’re trying to find a way to reduce spending, but slashing money from the education system never ends up being the right thing to do,” said sophomore political science major Kaitlin Zito of the possible funding reductions. “It really affects a lot of people. So many students depend on getting that money.”

By reducing funds to 2008 levels, the maximum Pell Grant award amount could end up being reduced from $5,550 to $1,500 in coming years.
“It (the Pell Grant) is just such an important program to insuring college access,” McCluskey said. “In a time of raising fees, we need to see more financial aid instead of less.”

But for some, the reductions need to happen to keep our national debt in check.

“I think that this resolution is a step in the right direction, tough spending cuts need to be made,” said Kelly Carnal, president of the CSU Republicans, in an e-mail to the Collegian. “We can’t continue to increase the deficit because we are creating a problem that we can’t recover from. As every American family is tightening their belt, the government needs to do the same.”

As for the cuts to be made, McCluskey said the budget won’t be released until March and then it will go through stages of the budget process.

“It’s likely that (Pell Grant cuts) would be seen at the beginning of the next fiscal year, but I can’t tell you exactly when,” McCluskey said.

According to the USSA, the Federal Pell Grant Program’s purchasing power has plummeted from covering 72 percent of college costs in 1976 to less than 30 percent in recent years. There will also be a 17 percent reduction in federal student financial aid, decreasing from $19.3 billion to $16.1 billion.

“It’s important to encourage students that we can impact this process,” McCluskey said. “Higher education costs are on the rise and it’s timely for us to impact this process, to intervene and call for more of a federal investment.”

Senior Reporter Erin Udell can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 6:10 pm

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