Lyndsey Wajert: A stimulus cut we can’t afford

For the past few months, GW students have not been exempt from feeling the burden of the worsening nationwide economic crisis. Had Congress passed President Obama’s originally proposed stimulus package, part of that weight might have been lifted from the shoulders of both the University and its students.

Recently, the stimulus package passed in the House of Representatives against Republican wishes on a strictly partisan vote. As of Friday, a Senate coalition consisting of moderate Republicans and Democrats reportedly reached a compromise that deleted some of the provisions of the House bill. Notably, this version apparently no longer includes money for students and colleges.

The Senate will make a mistake if it passes the new stimulus package without the funding for education found in the original bill. My support for the original bill stems from the fact that GW could have potentially benefited from the money allocated to institutions of higher education.

According to The Hatchet’s analysis (“Bailout funds may benefit GW students,” Feb. 2, p. 1), the bill contained a “total of $159 billion toward education, ranging from kindergarten to the university level, over the next two years.” Individual students could have seen more money for student loans from increases in Pell Grant funding and would have benefited from certain tax cuts. Moreover, the University could have potentially received more money for construction projects such as the proposed Science and Engineering Complex.

GW administrators have been taking steps to ensure that current and prospective students will not lose access to a GW education because of the financial climate. In The Hatchet’s report (“Tuition, financial aid face key Board of Trustees vote, Jan. 29, p. 1”), the results of the Feb. 13 Board meeting may provide even more money for students on aid. But that enhanced aid package likely will not be enough nor will it reach all GW students. The Obama administration and Congress must try to protect students across the nation, including here, by providing them with increases in grants to pursue their educations.

While some opponents argued that the bill should not include money for education, the correlation between education and long-term, stable jobs should not be ignored. Isn’t the bill supposed to be about jobs? In the global economy, higher education becomes more and more significant to our ability to compete. The stimulus package could have helped students graduate without a crushing level of debt in these difficult economic times.

At one level, the hesitation of the Republicans in the House and the Senate seems understandable. Or at least, their proposed litmus test – creating jobs or saving jobs – sounds logical.

But the changes made in order to appease Senate Republicans should not have included removing or reducing funds for education. According to CNN, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., “singled out education as one of the largest areas of cuts,” saying, ” ‘It’s a painful area for all of us, as Democrats, to make these cuts in education assistance.’ ” Painful for him, perhaps, but even more painful for the students denied aid.

GW and our other institutions of higher learning contribute to our economy in ways as vital as Wall Street or the automakers, even if this contribution is hard to quantify. Members of Congress need to follow through on their promises to aid the economy, and one way in which they can do so is by passing a stimulus package resembling the original bill, which allocates money to students and scholastic institutions such as GW. Perhaps the conference of House and Senate members who will work on a compromise bill will see the light.

The writer, a freshman majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet columnist.

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