Release: Sanders Fights Pell Grant Cuts for College Students

Nearly 10 Million Students, 13,000 in Vermont, Would Lose Aid

 BURLINGTON, Vt., March 14 - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) expressed strong opposition today to a House-passed budget that would reduce the average Pell grant by 17 percent.  Instead of balancing the budget on the backs of students and middle-class families, Sanders called for reducing the debt in a responsible way.

"At a time when college costs are soaring and the average Vermont college student is graduating nearly $25,000 in debt, the average Vermont college students would see their tuition assistance fall by $700," Sanders said. "These cuts would force 9.4 million low-income college students to lose some or all of their Pell Grants."

Sanders discussed Pell grants and the impact on Vermonters of other proposed cuts during a press conference today at his U.S. Senate office.  Students from Johnson State College and Lyndon State College attended the press conference.

In Vermont, 13,000 low-income Vermont college students would lose some or all of their Pell grants, according to estimates by the State Economic Office and Vermont's five community action agencies. A federal Pell grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid. The Pell grant is one of the most popular tuition assistance programs available for American college students. The maximum award is $5,550.  

"In the midst of this severe recession, when many Vermont families are struggling to pay the bills, it is absurd for the Republicans to make it even harder for families to afford college. It is my strong belief that students, regardless of income, should have the opportunity to attend college. The Republican budget proposal moves us in exactly the wrong direction. We should be working to make college more affordable - not less."

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows overwhelming support for a surtax on millionaires, which is exactly what Bernie proposed. Sanders' 5.4 percent surtax on millionaires would generate up to $50 billion a year.

"It makes no sense that at the same time Republicans are slashing programs for students and the most vulnerable people in our country, they want to give huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires," said Sanders, a member of the Senate education and budget committees.