Students await budget cuts, fear losing grants

Demetrius Terry was your average high school student. Shy as a freshman until he could feel out the waters. Terry ran track, but was cut from the baseball team. Being cut from the team didn’t stop him though – the coach granted him permission to exercise with the team and so that is where Terry spent his time after class. He even worked part-time at the pinnacle of high school retail stores – Hollister & Co. He grew up in Jersey City, comes from a low-income family, and had to fight to be at SHU after he was waitlisted.

Terry, a current senior sociology major, eventually got removed from the waitlist and was granted the opportunity to come to SHU because of the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG). This is a grant similar to the Federal Pell Grant, but it’s not an entitlement. Every school has an allotment from the government to give to needier students on campus. Terry is not alone in receiving this grant at Seton Hall. There are 100 students who receive SEOG at SHU, according to Alyssa McCloud, vice president of Enrollment Management. However, in President Donald J. Trump’s proposed budget, this grant would be cut.

© Joey Khan Photography

On March 16, President Trump released his “America First” budget proposal. Among the budget cuts, Trump proposed slashes in education funding. On page 18 it is written clearly that the budget, “Eliminates the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, a less well-targeted way to deliver need-based aid than the Pell Grant program, to reduce complexity in financial student aid and save $732 million from the 2017 annualized CR level.”

“Everything that Trump is proposing in his budget is just that—a proposal,” McCloud said. “Every president who has come before Trump proposes a budget—it’s a wish list. It is very unlikely that everything he is proposing will go through to the extent that he is asking.”

However, McCloud cautions that it is important students understand what is being proposed, discussed and possibly cut. Here at SHU the SEOG usually goes to students like Terry who take part in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) on campus.

According to the Seton Hall website, “EOP provides financial assistance and educational support to students who have the potential to perform college work, but who might not qualify for acceptance through regular admissions procedures.”

EOP is what got Terry moved from the wait list to the accepted list, he said. Not only does EOP provide financial support usually through the SEOG, but it also provides family support.

Terry describes it as the best of both worlds. “You get money and support,” Terry said. “I have been through a lot with my own family life, but EOP became a family for me. Always there when I needed them.”

However, the financial support provided to students like Terry could dissipate. The SEOG at SHU is usually about $4,000 a student and about 100 students receive these grants – materializing to about $400,000 that Seton Hall would be losing to help students in need attend the university, McCloud said.

Terry benefits from loans, grants and private scholarships, in addition to SEOG. However, Terry said for him it meant so much more. “It meant hope,” he said, “And losing the grant would be hurting families.”

Shaygne Rodriguez, a senior social and behavioral sciences major, is in EOP with Terry and also benefits from the SEOG. “I think Trump’s decision to cut these grants will ruin the dreams of millions of financially disadvantaged students who have dreams of a better future, but will not have means to achieve it,” Rodriguez said in an email interview.

Now it is a waiting game. Congressional lawmakers will draft their own budget proposals as well, which shouldn’t come until May.

Proposed education cuts were not limited to the SEOG. Trump also proposed a 10 percent cut to TRIO programs, which are federal outreach and student services programs. This would materialize to roughly $200 million.

Seton Hall has its own TRIO program called Upward Bound. According to Dr. Tracy Gottlieb, vice president of Student Services, the program helps first-generation, economically disadvantaged students prepare and go to college. Upward Bound serves about 130 high school students—that number would decline if there were cuts, she said.

However, Gottlieb is optimistic. “It is hard to cut a program that is so successful – there are members of congress who are graduates of Upward Bound, so the lobbying to preserve this program is tremendous,” she said. “We will have to wait and see and work with our congressional delegation to remind them of our successes.”

According to McCloud, the same applies to the SEOG. “SEOG cuts have been discussed before, but there are always going to be constituents in legislature who advocate for different programs.”

Siobhan McGirl can be reached at siobhan.mcgirl@student.shu.edu.

Author: Siobhan McGirl

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