Students can speak out about aid cuts

By Sarah J. Augustinas

A nation-wide campaign to “Stop the Raid on Student Aid” has been initiated by the Student PIRGs and United States Student Association, which urges students to call local legislators to speak out against a proposal to cut federal student aid.

The U.S. Student Association estimates the nearly $9 billion proposed to be cut from federal student loan programs will “increase the typical student borrower’s debt load by $5,800,” according to its Web site.

Though the Higher Education Act originally was designed to provide an affordable alternative for students to receive a college education, the reauthorization would raise student loan interest rates and borrower fees.

Freshman undecided major Katrina Basch said the legislation will only “make it harder for the people who really need it.”

Other programs will suffer

In addition to these increases, federal aid programs like the Federal Pell Grant and Work Study also will suffer. The Work Study program, which provides low-income students with a part-time job, will not receive any additional funding, freezing its funding at $1 billion.

About half of the 800,000 students who receive assistance through work study “come from families who earn less then $30,000 annually,” according to the U.S. Student Association.

The “budget reconciliation bill” has been “winding its way through legislation for about six years,” said Kathryn Buettner, associate vice president and executive director of External Affairs.

Buettner explained Congress was given the responsibility to “come up with spending cuts in problematic spending all over the budget,” and that “in changing the higher education programming for the country [it will] save 8.7 billion dollars.”

Sandra Flood, NIU’s leader in the campaign and a member of the American Federation of Teachers, hopes students will recognize the bill’s potential impact.

“[NIU students] are going to be paying more for their education,” Flood said. “Federal assistance for [students’] higher education will be diminished.”

Involvement might spur change

Flood said the only way to stop this proposal from passing in both houses is through student involvement.

“If you don’t want these cuts you need to contact your home district legislator because they rely on feedback when making their vote,” she said.

Students can connect with their legislator by calling the toll-free number 800-574-4243 and giving their zip code.