Courtesy of MCT
Unless congressional action stops this Friday’s scheduled spending cuts, low-income Ohio students could see a drop in opportunities for financial aid and work-study positions.
According to the White House, the impending sequester, a term for a series of automatic spending cuts by the government, will cause nearly 3,320 fewer low-income students in Ohio to receive financial aid assistance. The cuts do not end there – about 1,450 fewer Ohio students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college.
The spending cuts will total $85 billion this year, and $1.2 trillion over the span of 10 years, according to multiple sources. Part of these spending cuts will affect the way students fund their higher education.
While final figures won’t be solidified until Friday, Diane Stemper, executive director of student financial aid in the division of enrollment services, said that as of now, about $62,000 in Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant money and $113,000 in work-study funds will be cut for the 2013-2014 year at OSU if an agreement isn’t made.
“We would lose funding for our highest-need students,” Stemper said. “We would, total, have about 200 students impacted by that cut through those two programs.”
Stemper also said under the sequester, students might be charged higher origination fees for their student loans, which are taken out for administrative purposes.
Matia White, a third-year in criminology, said she receives all of her financial aid through work study, grants and loans. She works another job Monday through Friday from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. to pay for what the financial aid doesn’t cover.
White said she would be one of many such students forced to drop out of school if the sequester were to occur.
“I do struggle a lot because I live with a mother who doesn’t have a job,” she said. “If they were to cut any of my financial aid it would hurt a lot in my future goals. I already have to deal with balancing school and two jobs. I don’t think I could maintain my grades, stay afloat and support my family and school.”
White said work-study jobs are flexible enough to allow students to do homework in breaks and focus on their education. Without a work-study job, she said, students would have to find work elsewhere, which might not allow textbooks on site and could negatively affect study time.
Dhatri Kotekal, a second-year in microbiology, said if sequestration occurs, it would adversely affect students trying to focus on their studies and pay for books or food.
“For me, the reason I have a work-study job is so that I can (conduct) research and have a job at the same time. This work-study job has been helping me pay for things like (groceries) and clothes,” Kotekal said.
Professor David Jacobs in the Department of Sociology at OSU said bad planning has brought the government to this crossroads.
“(Congress and President Barack Obama) set up a deal where there would be heavy and irrational punishments if they couldn’t come to a deal to reduce the deficit. There’s two ways to do that: one is to cut spending, and the other is to raise taxes,” he said. “Everybody thought that if (Obama) makes this hurdle punitive enough that it would give opposing sides strong enough incentive to reach a deal. Well it’s not.”
While Karthik Hari, a second-year in electrical and computer engineering, doesn’t rely on financial aid or a work-study position to pay for school, he agrees the sequester is detrimental to the education system in general.
“It hinders willing students from earning higher degrees of education that drive the economy and our nation in the first place,” Hari said.
Kyle Strickland, vice president of OSU College Democrats and a fourth-year in political science, said the cuts in financial aid are devastating and that the compromise requires a balanced approach.
“The inaction in Congress is absolutely ridiculous. In order to deal with our deficit and debt we can cut spending but we can be smart about it,” Strickland said. “I think it’s ridiculous that we let millionaires and billionaires get away with loopholes and tax breaks. Meanwhile as a result, we’re having to cut spending for domestic programs for the middle-class and lower-income families.”
Stemper said OSU is continuing to present data about students and the benefits of offering them financial aid to lawmakers in an effort to prevent sequestration.
“The good thing is that Ohio State is trying to do as much as we can by freezing tuition and putting in more money to financial aid,” she said. “We’re committed to minimizing the impact as much as we possibly can.”