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Commencement 2010

A Threat to Equality

Student Aid

By The Crimson Staff

The following editorial is a joint statement of the newspapers of the eight Ivy League colleges. The editorial has been endorsed by The Brown Daily Herald, The Columbia Daily Spectator, The Cornell Daily Sun, The Daily Pennsylvanian, The Dartmouth, The Daily Princetonian, The Yale Daily News, and The Harvard Crimson.

The cuts in federal student aid proposed by the Reagan Administration are a short-sighted and dangerous assault on the equality of opportunity in higher education. The cuts would prevent many Americans from pursuing education to the full extent of their abilities, making such opportunities the exclusive privilege of the wealthy.

Any notion of helping the disadvantaged or promoting upward mobility is rendered irrelevant if the federal government does not even allow every American to get an equal education. Without equal access to the best colleges and universities, all attempts to create an equal opportunity society are doomed to failure.

Specifically, the Reagan proposal would restrict eligibility for Guaranteed Student Loans (GSL's) to those students whose families earn less than $32,500 per year, without any other regard for financial need. For families with more than one student in college or with several dependents, the arbitrary limit is insensitive and unjust. Further, funds from Pell Grants, College Work Study, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and National Direct Student Loans could be restricts, to families that earn less than $25,000. Under these limits, one million fewer American students would be eligible for GSL while 800,000 fewer would receive Pell Grants. All of these programs should continue to be administered on the basis of need, rather than on, any arbitrary cut-off.

While cuts in student aid threaten all college students. It is the students at private universities who will be hurt most directly by the proposed $4000 cap on total federal aid and-subsidized loans.

The Reagan Administration instifies these cutsaby suggesting that college students do not make substantial sacrifices to obtain their educations. But for most student, receiving financial aid, the cuts will not mean giving up stereos and Florida vacations, as Secretary or Education, William Bennett has suggested. The $4000 cap would affect precisely those students for whom such luxuries are only idle dreams, falling disproportionately upon poor and minority students. For many families, already pushed to the limits of their financial means, higher education would become an impossibility. To suggest otherwise indicates a willful lack of contact with reality.

For the Ivy League in particular, the cuts make it more difficult to maintain need-blind admission and to meet the full financial needs of its students once admitted. The Ivy League colleges have a commitment to provide education to the most talented students, not only to those who are both wealthy and talented. These colleges must maintain the integrity of that commitment.

We oppose the proposed cuts in student aid and question the values and commitment to education that they embody. Taken together, the cuts would save only $2.3 billion out of a projected deficit of nearly $200 billion. The Reagan administration claims that the cuts are an economic necessity, but this argument lacks credibility when combined with a continuing military build-up and a refusal to raise taxes. The cuts in financial aid would undermine both the intellectual ability and the economic productivity of America over the long run, while saving what amounts to peanuts.

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Commencement 2010Class of 1985