Students, Advocates Call on Senators McCain and Kyl to Reject Cuts to Education, Pell Grants

Media Contacts
Jason Donofrio

Arizona PIRG

With the U.S. Senate voting this afternoon on a proposal to stave off a federal government shutdown, representatives from the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG) and the Arizona Students’ Association, joined by Moriah Costa, a Pell Grant recipient at Arizona State University, Regent Fred DuVal the Vice-Chair of the Arizona Board of Regents, and Craig Fennell the Executive Director of Student Financial Assistance at ASU, decried the Senate’s attempt to cut vital investments to college aid and urged them to focus on other cuts.

The House-passed spending resolution – which Arizona Senators McCain and Kyl just supported – 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 government’s 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 Serena Unrein, Arizona PIRG’s Public Interest Advocate. “It’s unbelievable to imagine how cuts to Pell Grants happen first in a recovering economy. And yet, that’s exactly what the House resolution called for.”

The proposed cuts would have slashed 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 Arizona, 555,000 students will receive a Pell grant next year. Should the House spending plan become law, our state will lose $319 million in Pell funding, a cut from $1.74 billion to $1.42 billion.*

“State cuts to higher education have increased tuition, pushing more costs onto students themselves,” said Elma Delic, Board Chair for the Arizona Students’ Association. “Any cuts to Pell funding now, especially in Arizona where state-based financial aid is lacking, will push thousands of students already at the tipping point out of school completely.”

“After graduation I plan on working to make my community better,” said Moriah Costa, a Pell recipient at student at ASU. “If my Pell Grant is cut I will be forced to face some very hard decisions, including dropping out of school altogether”

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.

“State cuts to higher education have put a strain on our ability to train a skilled and educated workforce,” said Regent Fred DuVal.  “Cuts to federal aid would surely set Arizona on the wrong path to economic recovery.”

Arizona 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 other low-hanging fruit,” Unrein said. “We urge Senators McCain and Kyl to vote against any budget extension that includes cuts to Pell grants.”

District and State Pell information can be found here:
NAICU – Federal Student Aid Awarded in Arizona

Additional information on education cuts in HR 1 can be found at:
Student Aid Alliance (PDF)
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

* Proprietary school data is counted in the state of the businesses headquarters.  All University of Phoenix students are counted in Arizona.

– 30 –