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ASA defends Pell Grant against chopping block

Members of the Arizona Students’ Association delivered more than 2,600 letters signed in support of student financial aid to the office of Sen. Jon Kyl in Phoenix on Wednesday. Kyl is part of a Super Committee in Washington considering a reduction in funding for the program.

A proposed bill in the U.S. House of Representatives bill would eliminate billions in Pell Grant funding and cut the eligibility of 500,000 students immediately, said Rhian Stotts, vice president for external affairs for the Graduate and Professional Student Association at ASU and an ASA board member. The Pell Grant program provides federal funding for college students based on financial need.

ASA members spent the last few weeks reaching out to community members, students and alumni to collect signed letters in support of Pell Grant funding. They delivered the letters as well as statements from eight student body government leaders to Kyl’s office.

Speakers and Pell Grant recipients also attended, said Alisha Raccuia, a psychology senior at the UA and an ASA director.

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“We’re definitely outreaching and trying to be more vocal,” Raccuia said.

Organizations throughout the nation are rallying together over the issue, Stotts said. ASA is working with the Student Aid Alliance and the Arizona Public Research Interest Group to protect Pell funding, she said.

NAU launched the “We Are Pell” campaign about two weeks ago, said Blaise Caudill, president of the Associated Students of Northern Arizona University. The Facebook group has representation from students from more than 40 states, Caudill said.

The campaign aims to keep students informed and address misconceptions about who receives Pell Grants. Students are encouraged to take pictures of themselves in their roles on campus with signs saying, “I am Pell.”

“We’re really wanting to change that face,” Caudill said.

ASA held press conferences and rallies when possible cuts to the Pell Grant were announced last semester. This vocalization makes a difference in funding decisions, Stotts said.

“It’s necessary to allow needy students to pay for their education,” she said. “We can continue to save them.”

ASA will hold events at the UA next week focusing on issues facing financial aid, Raccuia said.


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