What Loyola Students Need to Know about Financial Aid Cuts
With the federal and state governments facing a number of budget issues, financial aid to college students has already seen some cuts and may continue to see more. The Federal Pell Grant and the Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP), specifically, are looking at funding losses of millions of dollars. In an attempt to raise awareness on the serious issue, Loyola’s Office of Government Affairs and Student Financial Aid Alliance sponsored a Grassroots Advocacy Seminar on Sept. 15 in the Crown Center Auditorium. Didn’t make it? Here’s what you missed:
Cuts Could Mean Less Money for You
According to the Office of Student Financial Assistance, approximately 3,300 Loyola students currently have been awarded the Federal Pell Grant. About 3,000 students are recipients of the Illinois MAP grant.
According to Eric Weems, Director of the Office of Student Financial Assistance, MAP recipients have received $125 less in grant money last semester as well as this fall semester. They may be awarded even less for the upcoming spring semester if more cuts are made. Students weren’t able to obtain Federal Pell Grants for summer school this year, which have already been cut. Also, while the maximum Pell grant amount students were awarded for the regular school year has remained at $5,500, that amount has covered a smaller percentage of tuition each year as the cost of college has increased.
Weems gave a number of shocking statistics but said in a later interview that there is a bigger picture to focus on. “The most impotant thing about the Pell and MAP grants being (or possibly being) cut is it comes very much in line with social justice aspects of a Jesuit university, the ideals at stake being students’ access and choice in their education,” he said.
Weems elaborated on his point saying state and federal aid, such as the MAP and Pell grants, help bridge the gap in cost between public and private colleges and universities so that students can decide on what type of education they want to persue at what type of school without the main factor of consideration being cost. According to Weems, giving students this opportunity is a matter of social justice.
Why It Matters
President of the Loyola Unified Student Government Association and PELL Grant recipient Sean Vera spoke of the importance these federal and state grants are to students and how, to some, they make the difference between being able to attend Loyola and not. Vera also commented on how the grants being cut could drastically changed the student body for those who don’t receive financial assistance.
“Loyola prides itself on being available to students of all different backgrounds…we have a wonderful unity here at Loyola through our shared differences,” Vera said. According to Vera, to lose that enriching experience due to lack of funding would be “…ridiculous in my mind.”
How Government Relations Can Help the Cause
Dave Davis, the Grant Coordinator and Constituent Advocate in Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s office, another speaker, encouraged students to contact their legislators or congressional staffers either by email, phone call or in person to push the importance of these student grants. Some tips Davis gave when meeting with either of these people included:
- being prepared to discuss the cuts in detail
- knowing the issues well
- making the effort to build a relationship with the government officials
Davis also encouraged students to get together and create an event for the matter to which they could invite the Congresswoman to hear real students tell personal stories of what financial aid means to them.
Davis left the audience with a positive message about students’ ability to take on big bussinesses or lobbiests when it comes to getting their cause saved from budget cuts: “You know, I say this all the time but organized people can compete with organized money anyday.”
Students can get involved in the financial aid advocacy a number of ways. Student Maggie Meza encourages students to look into the new student organization (which she has co-founded) called the Student Financial Aid Alliance. SFAA will be holding its first e-board meeting on Friday, October 15th.
“This meeting is to determine who the leaders of the group will be and to plan regular meeting times for all members,” Meza said.
The first thing students can do to get involved with SFAA, according to Meza, is to join the Pell Yes! movement by submitting a video to YouTube sharing their own stories and testimonials of why financial aid means so much to them. Meza even demonstrated how to do so by creating and posting her own video for the audience to witness. After posting these videos, the organization’s first e-board meeting will be revolved around discussing SFAA’s next steps and activities to engage students in the grant issue.
While the decrease in financial aid funding is concerning, Philip D. Hale assured the students and audience that they should not panic. Hale, the Vice President of Government/Public Affairs in the Office of the President, was the main speaker at the seminar. According to Hale, being aware of the problems at hand and being prepared to act if more substantial government aid cuts are made, either by petitioning or whatever else, are vital parts of advocating.
“We have not hit an iceberg yet, but there is an iceberg out there. Our job now is to steer away from it before we crash. And the way we do that is through grassroots advocacy,” Hale said.
By Shannon Barnet
Photo Courtesy of MoneyBlogNewz
- written by sbarnet1 on October 11th, 2011
- posted in Writing for the Web