CSSA fights against limitation of Pell Grant eligibility

In response to a possible change to Pell Grant eligibility, the Associated Students Inc. Senate has passed a resolution opposing any such changes to the program.

The California State Student Association (CSSA) sent student representatives to Washington, D.C. from Oct. 24 to 28, to lobby for the preservation of the current Pell Grant eligibility system.

According to a press release from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, the Department of Education was funded $69 billion, forcing the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and related agencies to make cuts to some programs for the 2012 funding draft.

The current maximum Pell Grant award of $5,550 will not be cut, according to Michael Quibuyen, Cal State Long Beach ASI treasurer.

However, the congressional deficit reduction supercommittee considered restricting eligibility for Pell Grants from 18 semesters to 12 semesters and eliminating students who are taking less than six units a semester, Quibuyen said.

The bipartisan supercommitte ended meetings on Nov. 21 after being unable to reach an agreement on how to decrease the United States’ sovereign debt.

According to Quibuyen, CSSA aims to preserve Pell Grant eligibility because it currently “maintains access for students in unique situations” such as not being in a high socioeconomic status.

“They kept asking us, ‘Which one of these eligibility requirements would you cut?’ We said we wouldn’t cut any,” Quibuyen said.

Committee members argued that limiting eligibility would help eradicate straw students.

Straw students are students who reap Pell Grant rewards only to leave without using the money for their education.

CSSA lobbyists responded by bringing up the issue of for-profit universities receiving more than half of California Pell Grant money relative to the number of students they have.

Despite receiving 20 percent of federal Pell Grant funding for their students, which make up 10 percent of all university students nationwide, for-profit universities have low graduation rates.

Quibuyen stated he was surprised to see that legislators were unaware of some for-profit universities’ systematic misuse of Pell Grant money, but were instead focused on the money abuse by individual students.

“I know it probably happens, but we didn’t think it was that big of an issue,” Quibuyen said. “I mean, the students who do that would most likely get caught because the system has all of your information.”

Quibuyen found the trip to Washington, D.C., to be very “enlightening.”

“I just feel that in D.C., they really don’t know the educational issues California is facing and it’s kind of scary because you’d like to think that education is one of their top priorities,” Quibuyen said.

Quibuyen continued that although CSSA lobbyists cannot pay politicians to listen to their argument, 412,000 CSU student votes could possibly make an impact on the decision making process.

“There really needs to be more federal lobbying efforts from campuses because D.C. is just in this bubble, they just don’t really know what’s going on,” Quibuyen said.

CSSA also lobbied for TRIO programs, which are federal outreach programs designed to help students with low-income, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities.

However, Quibuyen predicts that the TRIO programs will face little to no cuts, as it only requires approximately $950-million from the federal budget.


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