Cuts to student aid will hurt

Going to college to create a better future should be a dream available to all, not just to the few who can afford it. Yet the Trump administration seems to be taking the opposite view.

If on-campus Norwich University undergrad students received no aid of any kind, they would be paying approximately $54,474 ($52,776 off-campus) each year alone to attend college here, not including the costs of books and transportation, which can be a small fortune by itself.  According to the most recent update (2014-15) from the National Center for Education Statistics, College Navigator tool, 27 percent of all Norwich University undergrad students received federal Pell Grant aid, and 62 percent received federal student loans. Last school year (2015-16), students received approximately $3.2 million in Pell Grant aid.

The Trump administration recently released its fiscal year 2018 budget request, which, per the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), included “significant cuts to certain federal student aid programs, and decreased the Pell Grant program surplus”. This budget proposal would affect student aid funding for the 2018-19 year.

Martin Daniels, Norwich’s director of student financial planning, shed some light on what this means for students here at Norwich. “The Pell Grant Program would be impacted by potential that the ‘surplus’ for the program would be re-absorbed into the general federal government budgets. Although this would not have immediate impact on the scheduled awards for 2017-18, there is risk that the Pell Program would become more difficult to support fully during a period of national economic downturn. The proposal creates instability where there is currently none.”

When asked if other financial aid might be impacted, Daniels responded that the “Federal Work Study and Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant are also at risk within the current budget environment. These are school/government partnership programs which Norwich utilizes to provide about $1.2 million in work and gift awards to students with demonstrated financial needs.”

The financial planning office has announced that the federal Perkins loan is already scheduled to end on Oct. 1, 2017. Norwich students receive approximately $1.7 million per year through Perkins. Losing all three programs would remove nearly $3 million of awarding capacity from the college’s total awarding capacity.

Norwich anticipates being able to make renewal loans to continuing students, but the Fall 2017 incoming class is currently the last incoming class that will be Perkins loan eligible. Some students may now be left wondering how they will pay for college or crawl their way out of growing student debt. Others may be wondering why the Trump administration, which claims to want to economically help middle and lower income people, is cutting aid for college students in need, and essentially barring others from getting the education they need to further their careers.

Daniels encourages individual students to send letters to their government representatives if they would like to voice their support for retaining these programs. A lot of financial aid is at stake.

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