If Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on a national budget, 28,000 students in Oregon will lose financial aid in 2013.
If a decision on the federal budget is not reached by the first of the year to avoid what has been dubbed the “fiscal cliff”, funding for many federal programs, including financial aid, will be reduced, according to the National Education Association.
“If nothing happens, a lot will happen,” said Ron Paradis, Director of College Relations at COCC. “It will have a huge impact on financial aid.”
Though Pell Grants would be exempt, two of the programs hit hardest would be the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant and the College Work Study program. In the state of Oregon, these two programs would see a combined budget cut of over $1.9 million dollars, which would affect over 28,000 students statewide, according to a recent report by the National Education Association.
“The SEOG would be dramatically decreased,” said Paradis.
Currently there are 480 students receiving aid through the SEOG program at COCC.
The College Work Study Program would also see reductions which could result in fewer students able to take part in the program.
Erin Grant, a student at COCC who works in the Library Computer Lab, knows the effects these cuts may have.
“One way that it affects us,” said Grant, who was unable to get on the work study program this year, but was on the program last year, “is that I can’t get food stamps anymore, because I don’t have work study on my award letter, even though I do the same job.”
If these cuts go into effect, many students like Grant will face similar obstacles at a time when more people are going back to college and tuition costs are rising.
“What’s happened in the last five years,” said Paradis, “is that the number of students has increased dramatically, and so has the amount of aid.”
Along with the mandatory spending cuts, also at issue is the expiring of the Bush Era tax cuts, which would cause a typical middle class family of four to see its taxes rise by $2,200, according to a recent report by the White House Council of Economic Advisors.
In addition to the tax increases, the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit, which are meant to offset the cost of higher education, are set to expire at the end of 2012.
“This will affect parents, students, and the entire community,” said Paradis.
However, Paradis is hopeful that the fiscal cliff can be avoided.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Paradis. “We’re all trusting that Congress can work together to get things done.”