A group of students and other opponents of House Committee on the Budget Chair Paul Ryan’s budget plan gathered today at Hayden Lawn to protest against the plan, which includes cuts for Pell Grant funding.
The protest, organized by members of the Arizona Students’ Association, aimed to spread the word to students about the cuts to Pell Grant funding and how they could potentially jeopardize the educational future for many students who rely on financial aid. Students at UA and NAU also held protests today against the budget plan.
According to the Arizona Students’ Association, the Pell Grant cuts could affect up to 32,800 students in Arizona.
Janie Hydrick, a candidate for the State Senate in the 18th Legislative District, spoke at the protest and voiced her opposition for Ryan’s budget plan.
“It is working to dismantle the American Dream,” Hydrick said. “Our students need all the help they can get to make their dreams a reality. When their dreams become reality, our economy grows; our country grows.”
Hydrick said we have lost our moral compass in terms of education and what it can do for the people and the economy.
“This latest blow to dismantle the Pell Grants is one of the worst that Congress has come up with,” she said. “Instead of cutting Pell Grants, instead of cutting availability of higher education, we should be investing in it.”
To retain a sustainable program cost, the budget plan recommends maintaining the maximum award level for the 2012-13 award year, which would keep individual Pell Grants at a maximum of $5,645 for the next 10 years. The budget plan states it would be fully funded through discretionary spending, which means the amount of funding would be in the hands of legislators each year.
The House of Representatives passed the budget plan on April 10 with a 219-205 vote.
Patrick Morales, vice president of the Arizona Students’ Association, said while he isn’t a Pell Grant recipient, he still relies on financial aid. Morales also noted that two of his roommates are Pell Grant recipients and could be priced out of school because of the cuts in Pell Grant funding.
“All of these students, a lot of them feel apathetic and aren’t necessarily voting,” Morales said. “And it’s so important, because a lot of the times, they do this because the students don’t vote, so there’s no check from the students. That’s why they’ll listen to other voting blocks.”
One of the protesters, interdisciplinary studies senior Brendan Pantilione, said he would not be able to attend college if he had not received a Pell Grant.
“I’m at ASU because it was the cheapest school that I got in to, so removing something that covers a good chunk of my tuition would just make school impossible,” Pantilione said. “It’s a really small amount of money that’s being cut, but it affects a lot of students, and I feel that there has to be … other areas of the budget that harms people less and individuals less than cutting from Pell Grants and Stafford Loans.”
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