by Pamela Silva & Lisa Vandre
The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is considering cuts to student financial aid as part of their federal deficit reduction plan, according to a letter by President S. Alan Ray.
In the letter emailed to the Elmhurst College community on Nov. 8, Ray encouraged students to “raise their voices” to congress, but he has not heard much of a response so far.
“Because Illinois … is debating possible cuts to its programs, it is important that our students protect their financial aid by communicating with their Springfield legislators about sustaining MAP funding and their Congressional representatives about keeping Pell grants secure,” Ray said.
Ruth Pusich, director of financial aid at Elmhurst College, explained that EC students would be affected from potential cuts to Pell grants and Illinois MAP grants.
“We currently have 953 students receiving the MAP grant, and 978 receiving the Pell grant. Combining the two groups, over 1200 students, 36 percent of enrollment, would be affected by cuts in one or both of the programs,” Pusich said.
Pusich also said that students who come from moderate to high income would not be affected, but that it would hit the neediest students hard.
“These are the students who may not even have enough money to buy their books, much less have spare change to pay down their tuition bill,” Pusich said. “Keep in mind that ‘government’ funding is designed to make education affordable to all students regardless of their ability to pay, so any cuts affect a very vulnerable group of students.”
EC junior Lauren Williams is concerned for fellow students who may be affected.
“It is necessary for all [of] us broke college students to pay for college with the help from the government,” Williams said. “Lowering the amount given to students could affect future Elmhurst College students to choose a different place based on financial issues.”
Ray also said that EC’s current financial challenges do not put students’ financial aid at risk.
“Student financial aid is always an extremely high priority for the College.”
Pusich agrees with Ray.
“Financial aid is always important, since it is the life blood of the college.”
Pusich also explained that without financial aid, most students could not afford to attend EC.
“Financial aid helps make dreams come true,” Pusich said. “A private school like Elmhurst College must remain vigilant at all times to make sure that our students receive all the funds for which they qualify … We must continue to fight for the students and their right to an education.”
The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is trying to meet their Nov. 23 deadline to find an amount of $1.2 trillion of savings over the course of a decade. In order to accomplish this, at least 7 of the 12 members (equally representing the Democratic and Republican parties) must support the final deal and present it to the rest of the country, allowing Congress to vote on it by Dec. 23.