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Investing in Our Future

March 8, 2011

SJC students show some spirit at a rally supporting Connecticut Independent College Scholarship grant funding.

Need-based student financial aid funding is in danger at both the federal and state levels. The House of Representatives recently voted overwhelmingly to cut spending on education, reducing the maximum Pell Grant amount more than 15%, from $5,500 to $4,705. The impact of such cuts on working and middle-income students would be dramatic and powerful. We already know that undergraduate students borrow about $24,000 on average to cover the four-to-six years of their education. Additionally, many students squeeze 20 or more hours of work into their already full week of classes, assignments, and examinations. The loss of Pell Grants and other supplements will cause borrowing to mount further, or worse, contribute to students’ failure to complete the best route they have to future success.

Similarly, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget reduces and then potentially eliminates Connecticut Independent College Student (CICS) Grants, which help low-income Connecticut students attend independent colleges in the state. These grants provide over 6000 students with an average award of just under $4000 per year, which can make the difference in being able to afford their education.

On Friday, February 28, a group of students from independent colleges throughout the state, including an enthusiastic contingent of 50 students from Saint Joseph College, held a rally at the State Capitol in Hartford, to show lawmakers the faces of those who would be affected by the loss of that funding. I was proud to join them, and hope that our message was heard. At this time when other countries are surpassing the U.S. in preparing their citizens for the global economy and the technological age, it seems particularly short-sighted to be making higher education harder to achieve. Instead of reducing options for our students, we need to encourage them to build upon their intellectual resources; provide incentives to our colleges and universities to creatively meet their needs; and truly invest in our country’s future.

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