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About 30 students from NAU, UA and ASU walked into U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl’s Phoenix office Wednesday to hand-deliver more than 2,000 statements urging support of federal financial aid programs.
The statements — 2,706 in all — requested that Kyl help protect programs such as the federal Pell Grant and loan benefits from future cuts.
The budget deal reached by Congress in August made some slashes to student aid, but temporarily saved the Pell Grant from a severe funding shortfall by placing $17 billion toward the program over the next two years. According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, the program is still looking at a shortfall of $1.3 billion next year.
Kyl is a member of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the bipartisan panel charged with lowering the federal budget deficits by Nov. 23.
“In working with Student Aid Alliance and PIRG, (the Arizona Students’ Association) and students from across Arizona are standing with Pell,” said Rhian Stotts, vice president of External Affairs for ASU’s graduate student government.
She said the statements from both students and community members have been collected within the last week.
“I think it shows the influence students can have,” Stotts said.
Pell Grant recipient Alisha Raccuia, a psychology senior at UA, relayed her experience with federal financial aid to the crowd of students standing outside Kyl’s office.
To avoid the high costs of a four-year university, Raccuia attended Mesa Community College before transferring to UA. She worked full-time to pay her tuition at MCC, and received Pell Grant money while attending university.
“I can honestly say that I do not think I would be here if I wasn’t on Pell,” Raccuia said. “Being able to use this grant to alleviate some of the financial stress that comes with paying for a degree has (given) me the option to get the most out of my time at the University of Arizona.”
Raccuia said it’s “disconcerting” to be so close to finishing a degree with the possibility of financial aid cuts.
However, she remains more worried for the future generations.
“I will probably be fine because I am just so close to finishing,” Raccuia said. “I’m more worried about people coming into the Arizona university system after me. I think I’ll be okay, but what about my nieces, my nephews?”
President of Associated Students at NAU Blaise Caudill said he receives numerous emails from students who can no longer afford to attend a university.
“It breaks my heart when I have to respond saying there isn’t much out there than what they’re already doing,” Caudill said. “We are having to get more and more creative with our financial aid, especially if these programs are cut.”
Communications Director for ASA Dan Sullivan said these statements show students’ voices must be heard.
“It’s rather impressive, the work students have done thus far,” Sullivan said.
Caudill said Pell Grants support job growth and economic development, two things Arizona needs to continue.
“It’s drastically important that we support students and their future,” Caudill said. “It’s more important that the government’s budget does too.”
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