It’s that time again.
That time where freshmen legislators join their veteran counterparts in capitols across the country, get settled in their new offices and begin writing their first pieces of legislation.
On the national level, legislators are tasked with debating and approving a budget before the government shuts down.
Arkansas legislators, along with representatives and senators from across the state, are facing a marathon of votes in anticipation of passing the federal budget. Many legislators, especially Republicans, are using this first big task as an opportunity to show their conservative constituents that they mean business and are going to deliver on cutting the budget.
This has lead to some proposed cuts to programs, such as Pell Grants and Planned Parenthood, that might not be in the best interest of college students.
For all of the negative attention that Planned Parenthood often garners, it is still a valuable program that benefits the health of women and men across the country.
Although we are fortunate to have health services through Pat Walker that are at an extremely reduced cost or free, and are even more fortunate to have a Women’s Health Clinic on campus, these are not viable options for many people across the country.
Doctors and nurses at Planned Parenthood saw 3 million patients last year. They provided contraception options to people who might not find it anyplace else, tested for sexually transmitted diseases and screened for cancer.
They are the nation’s largest sex educator, and their website has an average of 1.25 million views per month. Despite what you might think about some of the services they provide, it is hard to argue that Planned Parenthood isn’t providing a valuable and much needed service to the women and young people of our country.
Pell Grants are another federal program under the knife, and may make a more devastating blow to the college population. Representatives from the UA Associated Student Government visited Washington, D.C. last week to lobby on behalf of the students to tell our representatives how seriously these cuts might affect our student body.
Currently, the 3rd Congressional District in Arkansas, where the UA is located, receives nearly $67 million in federal aid money through Pell Grants alone, according to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
The cuts passed by the House of Representatives this week would reduce the maximum award by $845, which is a little more than 15 percent. For students that depend on that aid, $845 could be the make or break amount that decides whether a student can come back to our campus next year.
That’s not the only cut. On average, all awards will drop around $800 and thousands of students will no longer be eligible for grants at all.
This is, simply put, unacceptable.
According to ED.gov, the U.S. Department of Education website, U.S. 15-year-olds rank 14 in reading, 25 in mathematics, and 17 in science when compared with their peers across the world.
For a nation that loves to tout itself as No. 1 in everything, these statistics are sobering and sad.
Our generation marks the first time many families have a person in college. We all want what’s best for our families, and us and we want to make our parents proud.
Cutting funding to education reverses all of the progress we have made toward these goals. It keeps students from bettering themselves, and our representatives should keep the interests of our students in mind as the federal budget debates continue.
Another issue of concern on the state level is the proposed change to Amendment 33, which would take control of the UA out of the hands of the UA system and create a nine-member board to administrate the entire state.
The UA System hasn’t done anything that would suggest such a change is necessary. We stand with the Governor and UA Board of Trustees in calling on our representatives to ensure that the UA maintains the best system of education possible.
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