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What Paul Ryan's Nomination Could Mean for Higher Education



By Catherine Groux
Posted August 13, 2012 09:48 AM

If he becomes vice president, Paul Ryan's policies could impact higher education.
If he becomes vice president, Paul Ryan's policies could impact higher education.
Recently, Mitt Romney announced that Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin representative, will be his running mate. As Ryan could potentially become the next vice president of the U.S., The Chronicle of Higher Education recently outlined his views on academia and what his nomination could mean for students.

Reduced (But Necessary) Cuts to Pell Grants

When Ryan released his plans for the 2013 federal budget, he was quickly criticized by many Democrats for cutting funding for Pell Grants, The New Republic reports. This form of financial aid provides need-based grants to low-income students.

Currently, students can receive a maximum of $5,550 per year under the Pell Grant program, and Ryan said he plans to leave this figure where it is rather than increasing it each year. However, he would change eligibility requirements so fewer students would qualify for federal Pell Grants, the Republic reports. Ryan has not yet stated what the new income limit for eligibility would be under his new plans.

On his website, Ryan said these slashes to federal Pell Grants are necessary, as under President Barack Obama's current plan, funding for this form of financial aid would run out in the 2014-2015 academic year. This could create a "funding cliff [that] could force sudden, steep cuts in Pell Grant support for eligible students or necessitate cuts to other education programs to prop up this out-of-control spending," he said.

Secure Borders Before the Passage of the DREAM Act

Under the DREAM Act, select undocumented students could become citizens by completing a college degree or two years of military service. Supporters have praised the bipartisan legislation, as it would allow illegal immigrants to create a better life for themselves while pursuing a legal path to citizenship.

On his website, Ryan states that he understands the points these supporters raise, but feels the passage of the DREAM Act would fail to address the bigger problem - securing the nation's borders. His position is that we must stem the flow of illegal immigrants before providing a path to citizenship for those who are already here.

"I believe it would be a serious mistake to pursue piecemeal reforms like the DREAM Act without first putting in place these fundamental components of immigration reform," Ryan wrote on his website.

Potentially Higher Interest Rates on Federal Loans

On June 29, Congress voted to freeze the 3.4% interest rate of subsidized Stafford loans for undergraduate students, right before they were set to double to 6.8%. The Chronicle reports that Ryan was against freezing student loan interest rates and did not include the funds to do so in his 2013 budget. However, as Republicans and Democrats sought a compromise on the issue, he voted to pay for lower interest rates by cutting provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

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