Monday, November 14, 2011

Minnesota Students Deliver 4,000 Signature Petition Opposing Pell Grant Cuts

Students speak to the harmful effects of narrowed Pell Grant eligibility

Students from the Minnesota State College Student Association (MSCSA) and the Minnesota State University Student Association (MSUSA) collected more than 4,000 signatures in opposition to the U.S. House of Representatives’ proposal to cut the Pell Grant Program by $4.2 billion.  MSUSA and MSCSA held a press conference on Monday, November 14th where MSUSA State Chair Amanda Bardonner and MSCSA President Geoff Dittberner called on the Minnesota Congressional delegation to preserve eligibility and funding for the Pell Grant program.
Amanda Bardonner stated, “The proposed changes will eliminate 13,200 Minnesota students who currently receive the Pell Grant and will cost our students $76 million in grants. That’s a tradeoff our state and our economy simply cannot afford.”

A recent study showed that by 2018, Minnesota's economy will need 70% of the workforce to hold a post-secondary degree. Currently, less than 45% of the Minnesota's workforce has a post-secondary degree. The Pell Grant serves the exact student population that our colleges and universities need to attract to keep our economy competitive.

Geoff Dittberner outlined his concerns by stating, "In a very real way, the Pell grant is disaster relief for this economic downturn. Eliminating thousands of Minnesotans from the Pell grant program is yet another disastrous financial hardship for students already struggling with increased higher education costs."

Bardonner and Dittberner were also joined by fellow students Sarah Shepherd from Bemidji State University and Michael Flannery from Hennepin Technical College.  Shepherd shared her story of a single mother fighting cancer suffered while serving in the Gulf War. The Pell Grant has offered her the ability to attend school full-time and become a student leader on her campus. Flannery spoke of the debt he incurred to pay tuition his first year of college, and how the Pell grant was instrumental in motivating him to complete his two-year degree and ultimately pursue a bachelor's degree.

Thirty years ago, the maximum Pell Grant award was equivalent nationally to about three-fourths of the cost of attending a four-year public college. Today, it covers only about one-third of the average national cost. Nearly 140,000 hard-working Minnesota college students rely on Pell Grants to afford higher education and desperately-needed job training.  Bardonner concluded by saying, “Students ask Congress, please don’t balance the budget on the backs of hard-working students. Please save the Pell Grant.”

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