College students from across the District rallied on Capitol Hill Friday to urge Congress to protect education funding and student aid.
The rally – organized by the group D.C. Students Speak – was held in opposition to possible cuts to federal student aid. House Republicans passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that cuts federal Pell Grant awards by a total of $5.7 billion, reducing the maximum award a student could receive from $5,550 to $4,705. The budget bill must still pass through the Senate, where it will likely be dead on arrival, as no Democrats voted in favor of the House bill.
Pell Grants are awarded to students based on their financial need and status as part-time or full-time students, taking into consideration the school’s cost.
The cuts to the grants are part of a larger budget deal for the 2012 fiscal year that seeks to reduce the nation’s rising federal debt by slashing spending.
GW senior Chrishon McManus, who attended the protest, said he was standing up for student aid.
“The Pell Grants go to a group of students who depend on the money,” McManus said. “If you want to stop the cycle of people being dependent on the government, giving them an opportunity to go to college will serve that end.”
Georgetown University, Catholic University and American University students also attended the rally, in addition to students from other local schools, chanting phrases like “stop the raid on student aid.”
The event lasted for about an hour and a half, with different students taking turns telling their stories over a megaphone in between chants.
Sean Keady, a Georgetown student, said he had become incensed by the issue when he learned the details of Ryan’s budget.
“The cuts will have a very real impact,” Keady said. “Many students won’t be able to take classes over summer and many may differ to community college because they can’t afford it.”
Douglas Bell, a sophomore from American, said both of his parents are music teachers from California, and Pell Grants gave him the opportunity to get a good education in D.C.
“Federal student aid should give all students access to a good education, which is so important to our future,” Bell said.