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Volume 72, Issue 17, Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Group battles aid cuts

Organization works to promote federal financial aid spending

The Daily Cougar

It comes as no surprise to students around campus that the cost of education continues to rise, but many students may not be aware of the influence legislation can have on higher education and tuition.

Communities United to Strengthen America, located in Pearland, is a grassroots organization students and other members of the community can utilize to become knowledgeable about pending legislation that affects the community, including education funding.

CUSA is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group that provides seminars, neighbor-to-neighbor communication training and education to communities about legislative decisions that affect middle-class families in simple terms most people can understand.

"We focus on strengthening middle-class families by speaking on topics that affect them. We want citizens to hold our elected officials accountable," Vanessa Wade, CUSA communications director, said. "We also are calling on Congress to take positive steps regarding the rising cost of college tuition and student loan interest rates." 

The CUSA Web site reported Congress is considering a 2007 budget proposal that will cut $2.7 billion in work-study funding and $7.2 billion in Pell Grant funding, affecting an estimated 4,200 students in the Houston area in their ability to attend college.

Public relations senior Selam Yemane, who plans to graduate this summer and relies on financial aid, said she would have to find alternative methods to pay for school.

"(Congress) could cut spending in other areas -- education should be a top priority," Yemane said. "This will definitely put a strain on my parents since I can't do it all on my own."

CUSA hosted a canvassing event in August to inform citizens about the rising cost of higher education and student loan interest rates.

"It is difficult sometimes to get people to listen because they're not interested or just don't want to hear about it. 

But these issues will affect everyone sooner or later and it is important to be aware of them," Bridget Hall, a communication graduate student and CUSA volunteer, said.

Hall, with other UH students and surrounding community members, went door-to-door inviting Pearland residents to sign a petition asking representatives to vote against the Bush administration's 2007 budget proposal.

The petition called for Congress to cut interest rates on student loans and fully fund tuition assistance programs. It can be found at CUSA's Web site at

Wade said grassroots volunteering is the foundation of the organization.

"We are always looking for volunteers to help get the message out," Wade said.

Volunteer information can also be found on CUSA's Web site, and the group's next focus will be economic prosperity for middle class families.

Kinesiology major Bertha Okoro said she appreciates organizations like CUSA.

"How do they expect us to succeed without access to an education?" Okoro said. "It's hard enough as it is; passing this type of legislation will just make it harder."

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