April 19, 2006

Dems Rally Against Cuts to Student Aid

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The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is due June 30, but the cuts in federal funding for college students make this paperwork seem unpromising.

In response, the Cornell Democrats sponsored a rally to protest the Bush’s administration’s proposed budget cuts yesterday in Ho Plaza. Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), Legislator Nathan Shinagawa ’05 (D-District 4), and Mitch Fagen ’07, president of the Cornell Democrats, spoke against the cuts.

“We’re upset about the Bush administration cutting student aid and we’re trying to show our opposition,” said Seth Luxenberg ’08, director of fundraising for the Cornell Democrats.

This is the second consecutive year that President George W. Bush has cut education funding; this year the cuts in education total 3 billion. College students receiving federal financial aid will be affected by the elimination of Perkins loans, the freezing of Pell Grants at fiscal year 2003 levels, cuts to the Federal Work-Study program and an increase of interest rates on Stafford loans and Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS).

Hinchey said that lawmakers in Washington who ignore the value of educational funding are not truly patriotic.

“The government has to make policies that will make a difference to people who want to get education to achieve the life they want,” Hinchey said.

Corrupt and incompetent leadership marks the Bush administration, Hinchey said. The congressman ended his speech with a hopeful look towards the November 2006 elections: “we will change the majority in the house of Representative and Senate, will reverse policy and put the country on the right path.”

Fagen said that one goal of the rally was to make as many people know about the issue as possible. According to Farah Ahmad ’07, the budget cuts affect many people, but many people do not know about them.

“Student rallies are important because they bring about a level of personal involvement which is critical through school and afterwards,” Hinchey said.

Alyson Blum ’09 was not aware of the changes in student funding until she saw a chalking advertising the rally.

According to Thomas Keane, director of financial aid for scholarships and policy analysis, the federal programs are not really being cut – they are not being enhanced to keep pace with rising costs. These cuts mean that Cornell will devote more in scholarship and grant aid and students will also borrow more than in the past.

In an attempt to act against the cuts, the Cornell Democrats handed out letters titled “Don’t Shortchange Students.” Students could sign and address the letters and members of the Democrats would then send the letters to the students’ congressmen and senators. The letter supports the “Reverse the Raid on Student Aid Act of 2006.”

“I’m not a fan of rallies where people just preach to the choir,” said Sun Columnist Elijah Reichlin-Melnick ’06, who wrote the letter.

Archived article by Jessica DiNapoli
Sun Staff Writer