Students rally to save Pell Grants
Chula Robertson, a global studies senior and an advocate of the Pell Grant, expresses her concern for financial aid amongst college students at the UA Mall on Wednesday.
The Arizona Student’s Association rallied on the UA Mall on Wednesday in an effort to save the Federal Pell Grant.
Shouts of “you deserve Pell” and “raise Pell” could be heard on the Mall as UA students, ASA representatives and Tucson community members and political figures rallied against Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin’s proposed budget. Ryan’s budget proposal would eliminate Federal Pell Grants for college students attending less than half-time, and would severely limit the grants for all other students.
“Paul Ryan’s budget would take Pell Grants away from 32,800 students in Arizona,” said Jose Guadalupe, ASA speaker of the house and political science senior. “Students will see a reduction of almost $159 million in Pell Grant funding.”
State Sen. David Bradley (D-10) was in attendance at the event and said it’s extremely important to invest in the future. Bradley said that cutting off Pell Grants means cutting resources available to the students and public here at the UA, as well as to the other state universities.
Jessica Rech, a pre-business junior, shared her own account of financial struggles while attending the UA. When Rech graduated high school, she received the Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards scholarship.
“I thought I had everything paid for — I just needed to buy my books — but that wasn’t the case,” Rech said. “I find out I’m going to have to pay $2,000 each semester out-of-pocket because the university decided to raise their tuition.”
Rech said that although she fully supports scholarships, grants and low-interest student loans, she also feels that universities are increasing tuition rates and that students see no direct effect of that in classrooms or research.
The proposed Ryan budget would also freeze Pell Grants for the next 10 years, Guadalupe said.
“Ryan’s plan would keep the maximum Pell Grant award at $5,370 for the next decade — a figure that covers less than one third of college costs,” Guadalupe said.
Sara Mattio, ASA representative and regional development junior, said she feels that students are underrepresented and believes that ASA will restore student rights.
“In Arizona, there is a big issue with student representation,” Mattio said, “and you can see that by looking at all the attacks on higher education.”
Among those protesting Ryan’s budget was Dr. Randall Friese, an associate professor of surgery and the associate medical director at the University of Arizona Medical Center.
“My low-interest-rate student loans that I received enabled me to go to college, to go to medical school and become the physician I always wanted to be,” Friese said. “These opportunities can’t be taken away. These opportunities build the infrastructure of our society.”
—Follow news reporter Adriana Espinosa on Twitter @adri_eee