TO: Faculty, Staff and Executives
FROM: Thayne M. McCulloh, Ph.D.
SUBJ: Important Announcement Regarding Student Financial Assistance
DATE: February 21, 2011
Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues:
I write to you this President's Day Holiday to share some important news that is evolving at the Federal (Congressional) level. Early Saturday morning, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, a bill which would keep the US Government functioning until September 30, 2011 but simultaneously reduces federal spending by $100 billion. Part of the reduction in spending directly impact student financial assistance programs -- in particular, grant programs intended to support high-need students who otherwise are unable to attend college. The two programs with which we are most concerned are the Pell Grant and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG). H.R. 1 proposes a major reduction in the $35 billion Pell Grant program and elimination of the SEOG program.
There are other portions of the federal budget that are not targeted in this reduction, clear evidence that support for college financial aid and, in the view of some, higher education itself, is eroding in Congress. This year, 845 Gonzaga University students are receiving Pell Grants in varying amounts, totaling $3.4 million. 612 students received SEOG totaling $439,000. Given that the recipients of these grants are our highest-need students, even small grants are vital to their continued enrollment. Without this funding, their continued attendance is in jeopardy and our ability to continue enrolling high-need students meaningfully impaired.
The President's budget proposes an increase in Pell Grant for next academic year and level-funding of the SEOG program. Next up is the Senate, which will propose its own bill in advance of a reconciliation process that will likely be a very challenging one.
Coupled with fiscal challenges at the State level, and the need to continue examining very carefully our own resources and spending priorities to make student education and retention a top priority, there are several steps we are taking and -- where it makes sense and is appropriate -- asking members of the GU Community to join in taking as well.
- We have asked and are asking all those who feel comfortable doing so as private citizens to contact their Senators and Representatives via e-mail to (a) thank them for their support of student financial aid and (b) to ask that they continue to support access to higher education for our nation's highest-need students. Some of the most powerful voices in this conversation are our students; you may wish to encourage students to submit e-mail as well. For links to the web-mail pages of our Members of Congress and federal officials, go to www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml.
- Our Spring Annual Fund is about to launch, with a special emphasis on financial assistance called the "Gonzaga Scholarship Challenge" at www.gonzaga.edu/theyneedyou. Our colleagues in University Relations have again done a great job designing an excellent website. Some of our most generous donors are members of our own community; if you can let others know about the opportunity to continue to support Gonzaga students through the Annual Fund, I would be grateful.
- As always, we need to be thoughtful and prudent about the way we spend University funds. Our students come first; we may, due to these changes in federal support, have to fill a heretofore unexpected shortfall in order to help keep our high-need undergraduates in attendance next year. While fundraising can be part of the answer, part of it must be about discretionary spending for the remainder of the year. I appreciate any effort that can be made in conserving resources to this end.
Thank you for your hard work and in particular for your support of our students. If you have questions or comments about this communication, please feel free to contact me.
Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil.