Student writing campaign calls for support to keep Pell Grant

Students across campus were encouraged to write to their congressmen in concern over proposals to restrict access to student need-based grants.

A letter writing campaign sponsored by the Illinois Connection, a grassroots advocacy program through the University of Illinois Alumni Association, asked students on the Quad Tuesday and Wednesday to write a postcard at the association’s booth to their federal legislators, showing their support for the Pell Grant program.

The Pell Grant is not a loan, and eligibility for it often means a student is qualified for additional state and institutional aid, such as the Monetary Award Program, or MAP, grant and the University’s tuition grant, according to a pamphlet provided by the Illinois Connection.

Landon Frye, president of the Student Alumni Ambassadors and senior in ACES, said the aim of the campaign was to show student objection to the current federal proposals that would restrict the Pell Grant from students.

“It’s a huge impact for Illinois students as well, because about 14,000 students on campus are supported by the program,” he said. “Our goal is to make that aware on campus and also hopefully get those people who are supported by financial aid to write to their representative.”

Last year, the University received more than $27.2 million in Pell Grants; the campus also received $27.5 million in state MAP funds and $16.5 million in institutional aid dollars, according to the pamphlet. With a maximum level of $5,550, the grant covers 41 percent of the tuition and fees at the University and aids nearly 400,000 students in the state of Illinois to attend college. Brittani Brogdon, vice president of alumni relations for Student Alumni Ambassadors and senior in AHS, said writing to a legislator can make a difference.

“Another goal with this is to show students that writing a letter makes a difference. Several letters to one legislator can show that it’s a big issue and makes a big impact,” she said.

Panagiotis Karahalios, junior in LAS, said he decided to write a letter because, financially, the grant was an important part of his education.

“It’s pretty much why I am able to go to a university like U of I,” he said.

This marks the second letter writing campaign that the organization has done. They held one last semester, collecting almost 200 letters in support of funding for the University and state aid for students.

Frye said they can send a lot of formal letters, but a simple, handwritten note can go a long way.

“We want to take an active approach to keep that support, not just for Illinois students but higher education in general,” he said.