Throughout the hearing, a number of Congressional members made it a point to question the lack of evidence illustrating the success of Department of Education programs. As these questions arose, I sat in the hearing amazed and in disbelief. There I was, sitting along with other students who rely on Pell grants, Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants and other forms of federal aid. Several of us are the first in our families to go to college, let alone attend one of nation’s premier higher education institutions. We are working hard, and, thanks to those financial aid programs, I am confident that upon our graduation, we will be giving back to our country.
To those who question the effectiveness of the federal student aid programs, I ask that they look at the people around them. There are staff working in Capitol Hill offices—and even some members of Congress—who would have never earned the educations they did without the assistance of financial aid programs, such as the Pell, SEOG and Federal Work Study. There are Americans risking their lives in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere who brought needed skills to their service thanks to educations made possible by these programs.
You can find various occupations that contribute to the United States in many ways, thanks to these same financial aid programs. There are entrepreneurs creating employment opportunities for people, as well as nurses and emergency responders saving the lives of citizens and most importantly, teachers that are preparing the next generation of Americans. These are people who would not be doing what they are doing today without these programs.
Currently, I am using my Georgetown education—and have plans to continue after I graduate—to participate and support the Upward Bound Program, an effective high school program that aims to prepare these students with the skills and tools necessary to not only enter college, but also succeed. As a former participant of this program, I, along with many students nationwide, have immensely benefitted from this program and from the directors and coordinators, which are in this position because of the assistance they received from financial aid. Additionally, I plan to use my Georgetown education to pursue a career in public policy, to aid in the creation and maintenance of policies that will benefit the nation’s communities.
I am not the only student or college graduate who has pursued efforts that contribute to our communities.
A 2007 study showed that a college graduate, over their working life, on average pays $472,000 in taxes, as compared to $260,000 paid by the average high school graduate. The difference in taxes between the two is a little over $200,000 more than the cost of even the maximum aid a student might have received from these critical programs.
So, I think there is plenty of evidence that these programs are very effective at creating educational opportunities that are a sound investment for every American.
Jesse Avila, originally from California, is a sophomore at Georgetown University double-majoring in Government and Sociology. He is involved in the Latin American Youth Center's Upward Bound Program and a mentor in the Georgetown Scholarship Program (GSP).