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Advocacy Corps Urges Congress to Protect Student Financial Aid and Support Science Research


In early November, Stony Brook University’s (SBU) Advocacy Corps met virtually with Rep. Nick LaLota’s higher education staffer, Grady Austin, urging the Congressman to prevent cuts to student financial aid included in the House Labor-HHS appropriations bill. The proposed FY24 House bill would eliminate funding for the Federal Work Study (FWS) program and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) in addition to merely providing level funding from FY23 for the maximum Pell Grant award.

Schumer“Federal student aid is vital for increasing college access, affordability, and graduation rates. Student aid programs such as Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), and Work-Study provide a lifeline to low-income students who rely on federal support to access and finish college,” said Malak Makled, a sophomore double majoring in political science and psychology. “More than one-third of Stony Brook University students receive Pell Grants, a program that is the foundation of our national investment in higher education, and currently helps nearly 7 million low-income students pay for college each year.”

During the meeting, Mary Brantley, a graduate student studying public policy and a Pell Grant recipient, shared how the Pell Grant positively impacted her educational journey. “I knew that I wanted to earn a graduate degree so that I could be more educated in the field of public policy when pursuing my future career, but it didn’t seem possible for me to further my education and be financially stable simultaneously,” said Brantley. “When I discovered that I qualified to be a Pell Grant recipient, everything changed. The Pell Grant played a critical role in supplementing my efforts to attain the incredible opportunity of attending Stony Brook University’s graduate program and allowed me to complete my bachelor’s degree with zero student loan debt. I genuinely do not know the financial or mental state I would be in without federal aid such as the Pell Grant.”

Following this advocacy meeting, Rep. LaLota’s office conveyed that the congressman would oppose the current House Labor-HHS bill given the inclusion of these devastating student financial aid cuts.

The Corps also recently met with U.S. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Long Island (LI) Regional Director Michael Ianelli in addition to the Senator’s LI Deputy Regional Director Joselyn Mejia, an SBU alumna, urging Leader Schumer to work with his congressional colleagues to fully fund the amounts that his transformational CHIPS and Science Act authorized for DOE’s Office of Science, NIST and the NSF for fiscal years 2023-2027.

“Congress must make a bipartisan reassertion of the CHIPS vision immediately if the government is to truly follow through on the bold promises outlined in the CHIPS and Science Act,” said Eshwin Varghese, a senior studying biology. “As our global competitors continue to make robust science investments, the US is falling behind.” China has gained significant ground in recent years — and their rate of increase in investments in research and development has been twice that of the United States over the last decade.

Congress passed the CHIPS and Science Act last year, which funded $50 billion for domestic semiconductor manufacturing. It also authorized — but left up to further legislation to appropriate — almost $200 billion in funding for key federal science agencies for us to remain competitive in semiconductors and other areas.

“Innovative researchers at Stony Brook University and at other research institutions across the US who are ready to answer the call to make the next groundbreaking discoveries and advanced technologies, lack the promised funding to move forward,” said Anastasia Poulos, a senior who is double majoring in political science and journalism.

Stony Brook’s Office of Federal Relations continues to work with Advocacy Corps, SBU’s higher education partners, and the New York congressional delegation on all of SBU’s federal priorities.

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