As students and educators, our members understand the necessity of raising the debt ceiling in order to pay the bills the nation has incurred and preserve our standing as a leader among nations of the world. We commend the president and both political parties for reaching an agreement that provides $17 billion in funding to maintain the critical Pell Grant Program. Such support is vital to ensuring that talented and deserving students will have the means to earn their degrees.
However, this deal comes at real cost to other students. The elimination of the in-school interest exemption for graduate and professional students and on-time repayment incentives for student borrowers will result in college becoming more expensive for millions of students and their families.
Moreover, in combination with other recent legislation, there is a clear pattern of an assault on the core student aid programs that looks to continue into next year. Already this year we have seen:
• The elimination of year-round Pell Grants;
• The elimination of the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) Program;
• The elimination of the in-school interest exemption for graduate and professional students;
• The elimination of on-time repayment incentives for student borrowers;
• Funding cuts to the TRIO Programs, GEAR UP, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) Program and graduate education programs
These cuts amount to more than $30 billion that has been taken out of the pockets of cash-strapped college students even before the FY 2012 appropriations process is finalized. Since the caps on discretionary spending for FY 2012 will be $7 billion lower than FY 2011 and the FY 2013 levels will be $3 billion lower than FY 2011, we know there will be more attempts to raid student aid programs going forward.
With widespread recognition that our nation sorely needs to power up its economic engine, it is more important than ever to preserve and provide adequate funding for the array of federal student aid programs that offer today’s students an opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills that the nation requires. Work force projections forecast that by 2018, there will be jobs for as many as 2.2 million new workers with college degrees, but on our current trajectory, there will be a shortage of 3 million workers who need an associate’s degree or higher. In addition, about 2.5 million new jobs will require an advanced degree.
Congress and the administration should not attempt to balance the budget on the backs of students.