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GOP Proposal To Cut Pell Grants Worries Westchester College Students

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. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
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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