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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Student Aid Politics

What do the federal deficit and interest-group politics have to do with college students? Rather a lot. The Student Aid Alliance, a coalition of dozens of higher education organizations, is working to maintain funding for a variety of programs:
The Student Aid Alliance supports a package of proven student aid programs to help students achieve their higher education goals without excessive debt. These programs include Pell Grants, the campus-based programs (Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants [SEOG], Federal Work-Study, and Perkins Loans), Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships (LEAP), Federal Student Loans, Federal TRIO programs, GEAR UP, and graduate programs.
Cuts may be looming, as Education Week reports:
Federal financial aid for college students is emerging as a hot issue in Washington, as policymakers seek to balance the need to help students gain access to higher education during an economic downturn against the pressure to rein in spending and cut the deficit.

The Obama administration recently announced a series of changes to the federal student-lending efforts aimed at making it easier for borrowers to repay their loans—prompting an outcry from Republican lawmakers in Congress and from some GOP presidential candidates who are concerned that the proposal will encourage students to take on more debt than they can afford, ultimately increasing costs for taxpayers.

College access advocates also are keeping a close eye on the supercommittee, which is tasked with cutting $1.5 billion out of the nation’s deficit over the next 10 years. The committee must make recommendations to Congress before Thanksgiving; lawmakers can either vote up or down. If the committee does not complete its task—or if Congress rejects its suggestions—deep cuts to domestic and military spending kick in for January 2013.

Advocates worry that the committee may seek to make changes to the eligibility requirements for Pell Grants, or make a change to the student-loan program that would mean students would begin being charged interest on their loans while they are still in school. Right now, interest on student loans doesn’t start accumulating until after the student graduates.