Over 150 students phoned in their opinions to a Southern California congressman yesterday, urging him and other congressional members to “Stop the Raid on Student Aid.”
The United States Student Association (USSA), a student lobby organization for higher education affairs, hosted a National Call-in Day in front of the UCen to protest a bill in the House of Representatives that would cut $14.3 billion in student aid, organizers said. Because local representative Lois Capps (D-23) has already voiced her opposition to the bill, students instead left scripted messages for Ed Royce (R-40) of the Orange County area.
The U.S. House of Representatives is slated to vote on the bill, HR 609. this Thursday as part of the federal budget reconciliation process, said Bill Shiebler, who sits on the USSA board of directors. Budget reconciliation is a process through which the federal budget is balanced or limited to an agreed amount of debt through a series of spending cuts to various programs.
Felicia Cruz, A.S. external vice president of statewide affairs and a senior sociology major, said the U.S. Senate passed a similar budget reconciliation bill last week. If the bill passes in the House, it will go to a conference committee where Congress will make a final version of the two bills and vote on it as a whole, Cruz said.
The House bill would increase the cost of paying off student loans by an additional $6,000 on average and would cause an overall increase in fees for a variety of student loan programs, such as direct loans or loan consolidation, Shiebler, a third-year sociology major, said. He said the bill’s passage would also make cuts in federally-funded social programs, including food stamps and Medicare.
“These are the biggest cuts to financial aid and student loans in the history of the world,” Shiebler said.
In addition to the cuts, Jeremy Rabinovitz, chief-of-staff to Capps, said the bill includes a tax break of $35 billion to Americans who make over $1 million per year.
“Instead of cutting programs that benefit the working class, representatives in Congress should vote down the tax break that will benefit the wealthiest Americans,” Rabinovitz said.
Shiebler said the USSA has been protesting the current budget reconciliation process for three months by holding “national days of action.” He said the House vote on the bill was pushed back until this Thursday because of the protests.
“The vote was planned to take place in September and October, but due to all the opposition, it kept getting pushed back,” Shiebler said.
Cruz, who sits on the USSA board of directors, hosted the event with help from Associated Students Student Lobby. Cruz said she thinks the proposed budget reconciliation process would harm students’ ability to attend higher-learning institutions.
“Congress needs to understand why we are against this,” Cruz said.
Though he said he would not be personally affected by cuts to student aid, Joel Rodriguez-Flores, a third-year women’s studies major said he thinks all students should challenge the House to vote down the bill.
“An institution for higher public learning should be accessible to everybody,” Rodriguez-Flores said.