Jul 15, 2011

Speak Up For College Opportunity [Or, I, Like Everyone At Students First, Answer To The Billionaires]

This weekend, July 16th and 17th, members of Congress and the President are likely to craft a debt reduction deal that could slash Pell grants.

Now more than ever, a college education is critical to securing a place at the center of our country's mainstream. But tuition is skyrocketing twice as fast as health care costs, three times faster than family income, and four times faster than inflation. To make matters worse, nearly half of all states have cut their need-based student-aid programs this year. Michigan, for example, cut its programs in half; Ohio slashed its aid by nearly two-thirds. It's no wonder that, by age 24, students from wealthy families are 10 times more likely to have a college degree than are students from low-income families.

As debt-reduction talks in Washington reach a fever pitch, policymakers are looking for big budget cuts. And the Pell program is a prime target. Earlier this week, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., a leader in the negotiations, proposed cutting $10 billion from Pell. Another congressman referred to Pell as the "welfare of the 21st century." Yet another high-ranking lawmaker insisted that Pell is contributing to rising college costs, despite the fact that Pell's purchasing power is so diminished that today it only covers about one-third of the cost to attend a four-year public university.

If you're reading this blog post, you're probably passionate about ensuring that all of America's students are ready for success beyond high school. You're advocating for better teaching, higher standards, and more rigorous courses. And you're tearing down the barriers that stand between students and success. But right now, I'm hoping you'll turn your attention to saving the program that helps millions of low-income and working-class students overcome one of the biggest barriers they face: the high cost of college.

Pell is the cornerstone of our nation's financial-aid policy. It's the best chance that many working-class and poor kids have to attend college. And an educated workforce is crucial to our future economy that this deal is supposed to secure.

What you can do

1. Sign the Education Trust petition on Change.org to ask Obama to preserve funding of Pell grants at all costs.
Join the 10,000+ people who understand the importance of Pell grants to disadvantaged students and to the strength of our economy. Negotiations are happening this weekend so we need your signature today.

2. Take Action on Save Pell Day -- July 25th.

The deal that may be made this weekend will have to be approved by Congress in the weeks to come. That's why thousands of folks will come together on July 25th for Save Pell Day, an online day of action. On that Monday, advocates for students across the country will use Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and e-mail to contact Congress and spread the word about saving Pell from potential cuts. To learn more about how you can take action on Save Pell Day, follow the campaign on Twitter, check out our Tumblr Blog and join our Save Pell Community on Facebook.

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