EDITORIAL: Future of US is built on federal student aid
Federal investments in aid allow for realization of American Dream
The economic reality of the common American family today is one of financial instability. One layoff and the house is foreclosed. One mistake and the chain of debt shackled to your ankle pulls you into the abyss. One misstep and you find yourself in a free fall. For the high school student working to help his family eat, the scholar with unemployed parents, the youth with parents who immigrated here and never attended college, the kid who feels walled in by familial debt, higher education seems like a remote, distant dream. But this nation must not allow this dream to be deferred.
A low-income student is five times less likely than a high-income student to have a college degree by the age of 24. In a nation where abruptly falling ill, something relatively beyond one’s control, is the No. 1 cause of bankruptcy, there must be significant governmental support for higher educational attainment.
Rutgers students receive more than $400 million a year in federal financial student aid. Programs such as Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Work-Study, Perkins Loans and Direct Loans allow for something once deemed inconceivable to be considered potentially attainable. Approximately a third of undergraduate students at Rutgers receive a Pell Grant. Elected officials ought to push for broader support of congressional measures to raise the Pell Grant maximum award from the current level of $6,195. Even modest increases are felt by the individuals who receive this door-opening assistance.
Need-based federal subsidized student loans are fundamental in allowing for the realization of the collegiate American Dream. More than 21,000 Rutgers undergraduate students rely on these loans to help finance their education. They are one of the most important tools that equip students from around the country with the means to attend college.
Federal student aid is the reason many are in college today. It ensures that the future of students is not lost in the tribulations of financial downturn. Living in a low-income household often brings with it the feeling of powerlessness. Everything seems to be out of one’s control. Pell Grants and subsidized federal loans put the power bank in the people’s hands, allowing for students to take back control of their lives.
But the ability to attend school does not eliminate the pressures of debt and the need for an income. More than 3,700 Rutgers students utilize the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program. Though it is a small contingency, FWS allows for students to earn a wage while also providing work experience at our educational institution.
The movement to streamline the process of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process must not allow for simplification to mean subtraction and exclusion. The current, overly complex financial student aid system ought to be revamped, but this cannot be a guise for diminishing the access and availability for students.
To invest in federal student aid programs is to invest in not only the future of the students of America, but also the nation as a whole. In 2014, Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) director for Education and Skills Andreas Schleicher summarized the finding that when the U.S. government allocates tax collections to higher education, “taxpayers get $200,000 more out of every graduate than what they invested." In the 1990s, the United States led the world in college degrees as it was first among OECD countries. We have slipped farther down, moving closer to the 20th rank with each passing year.
While other countries were increasing public expenditures in education as the world became more and more technical, America had cut its spending. To be a global leader of innovation and prosperity, access to higher education must be at the forefront of legislative action. To be a more just society of mobility and progress, affordability must be the focus of elected officials. Congress must continue its strong support of federal student aid programs for the students and future of this nation.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.