GOP Proposal To Cut Pell Grants Worries Westchester College Students

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U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey talks about the importance of Pell Grants with Purchase College students Danielle Williams (second from left) and Nzingha Shaw (bottom), and other students and college staff.
U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey talks about the importance of Pell Grants with Purchase College students Danielle Williams (second from left) and Nzingha Shaw (bottom), and other students and college staff. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Christopher Cappucci (center) is in his second year at Westchester Community College.
Christopher Cappucci (center) is in his second year at Westchester Community College. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Vanessa Herman is the assistant vice president for Government and Community Relations at Pace University.
Vanessa Herman is the assistant vice president for Government and Community Relations at Pace University. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Nzingha Shaw would have a hard time paying for her Purchase College tuition if a proposal to cut Pell Grants from the U.S. House of Representatives gained traction.

Shaw, a sophomore at Purchase, has two older sisters already in college and a younger sister entering college in the fall.

“Being on the line of determining whether or not I will be able to receive the Pell Grant really is a big change in how I will be able to afford school, and how my parents will be able to afford my sisters going to school,” she said. “And having to leave purchase would be devastating.”

The proposal, put forth by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and passed by the House April 10, would cut $145 billion during the next 10 years from the Pell Grant program, which provides eight million students with nearly $29 billion in aid. This includes $79,430,752 for 20,620 students in the 17th Congressional District, comprised of northern Westchester and Rockland County.

U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, who represents that district, said the proposal will likely get defeated in the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate, but that it’s a warning for the future.

“If budgeting reflects priorities, then it’s clear that the House Republicans don’t care about making college affordable,” she said while meeting with Shaw and a few other college students in her White Plains office Wednesday.

While Shaw will qualify for the Pell Grant in the upcoming semester, another Purchase College student Danielle Williams will not because her parents’ income went up a little.

Williams said she works two jobs, moved off campus with someone to save money and is has taken out the as many students loans as she can, and she still is on the borderline of being able to afford school. 

The Ryan proposal would also cause Subsidized Stafford Loans to start accruing interest while the student is still in school. For a $23,000 loan, this would add $3,800 in interest, Lowey said.

“Just one cut to a small program such as Pell, which is so crucial; and again the difference between going to college and not going to college is something that we take very seriously,” said Vanessa Herman, assistant vice president for Government and Community Relations at Pace University.

Nearly 90 percent of Pace undergraduate students receive some kind of financial aid, and more than one-third receive Pell Grants, she said.

Brianna Lampert, of Yorktown, just went back to school and said she doesn't qualify for Pell Grants, so she can only afford to go part-time. 

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Students should get jobs and work their way through college, paying their own way, as was done "in the old days". If they paid out of their own pockets instead of with taxpayers' money, then maybe they'd be more vocal about the outrageous and unjustifiable tuition rates at those so-called institutions of higher learning.

College is a lot more expensive than it was in the "old" days. If a student works 35 hours a week at $10 an hour, that's about $15,000 a year. And $10 per hour is way above minimum wage. Tuition at a state university is about $20K a year without housing (14K), books (1K), food (pick what you think) and other costs like insurance, medical, and clothing. Unfortunately, private schools are evev higher. Mercy College is one of the cheapest schools in the state. It's tuition is over $700 a credit. Basically a student needs to earn over $100K a year to afford to "work their way through" school. If they can earn that much working, why go at all? Because they can't.

Kathy - the cost of college tuitions is unjustifiable. No college should charge more than $5000-7500 per year. Rather than the students taking on loans that they will be paying back for most of their working lives, they should be demanding that the tuitions be reduced to a reasonable amount. There's no reason why a college education should cost upwards of $100,000.

I agree. But facts are facts and it costs about 200K with every thing added up. No one can earn that much while simultaneously going to college unless they start paying college athletes and that's another story.

If they're going to get rid of the pell grant than pass something that puts some sort of restrictions on the crazy tuitions at these school. 70,000 for some of these schools its ridiculous

If we are worried about college affordability how about telling Obama to drop interest rates on all those government loans that only the government can now give students at supposed "discounted" rates that are making the Federal government over 140 million or was that billion in profits a year. That's the disgrace that Nita Lowey should be worried about coming from the democratic party and her president.