As Congress winds down for its holiday break, there is still much work to be done. A bipartisan budget deal is gaining steam, but we want to ensure the harmful cuts to student aid as a result of the sequester are ultimately reversed. Consequently, the co- chairmen of Student Aid Alliance, Molly Corbett Broad and David Warren, recently penned a letter to Reps. Harold Rogers and Nita Lowey, and Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Richard Shelby, chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, respectively. The letter was sent December 19, 2013.
Dear Chairs and Ranking Members:
On behalf of the millions of students, educators, administrators and college presidents we represent, we write to request that you provide the highest possible allocation for the fiscal year 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, and use this funding to reverse the harmful cuts to student financial aid imposed by sequestration.
With the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, Congress has the opportunity to undo the damage caused by sequestration to American college students. Across-the-board cuts reduced critical student aid funding just as demand for educated workers spiked.
Examples of these cuts include:
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) funding was reduced by over $38 million in FY13. These funds are overmatched by institutions to provide much greater aid to Pell-eligible students than the federal investment alone would allow.
- Federal Work-Study (FWS) funding was cut by more than $51 million, reducing aid to low-income students working to support their educations.
- Federal TRIO Programs saw their funding slashed by nearly $44 million, causing a disproportionate reduction in the services offered to students working to prepare for and complete their post-secondary degrees.
- Similarly, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) funding was cut by almost $16 million, undercutting these critical efforts to prepare low-income students for college.
These cuts do not include the sequestration-imposed increase in origination fees on loans, which forces students to pay more to the federal government simply for the right to borrow. Combined with previous funding cuts, the budget-driven elimination of the LEAP Program, and a decades- long trend of states’ substantial divestment in higher education funding, college access and success have never been more challenging for low- and middle-income students.
This is a deeply counterproductive policy at a time when our economic competitors are pouring money into their postsecondary education systems. Our nation needs the skilled, innovative thinkers that colleges and universities produce to grow our economy. There is an expanding shortage of workers qualified to fill available positions, while unemployment is still too high.
The FY14 appropriations bills will offer Congress the opportunity to begin addressing these challenges, and to move toward greater competitiveness, productivity and economic growth through a better educated workforce.
We urge you to support the financial aid programs and reverse the harmful cuts imposed by sequestration in the FY14 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill.
Molly Corbett Broad