Letter to the Editor: College students feel consequences of Pennsylvania’s budget deadlock

The state budget is pending, so where does that leave me and my college tuition?

For college students in the area, the fall term is at the midway point with the spring semester only months away.

Class registration for the spring has begun for students at Wilkes University, though not with ease. Due to the pending Pennsylvania budget, students who receive state loans or grants such as PHEAA have yet to receive the aid, which for many left anxiety for what that would mean for class registration.

At Wilkes, students are unable to register for courses if they have not paid off their tuition for the semester, or are not currently enrolled in a payment program. This isn’t just a Wilkes problem; this has greatly impacted students across the state.

According to PHEAA’s Communications and Press Office, close to 160,000 college students, including thousands in Northeastern Pennsylvania, are waiting to receive PHEAA grants.

At Wilkes, approximately 43 percent of students are still awaiting payment from PHEAA.

Luckily, most institutions have enabled students to register and attend classes, despite state aid not being applied to their billing statements, as it had impacted most of the campus community.

While we have been able to register, we have yet to receive reimbursement checks – money most of us rely on each semester to pay for books, rent and general cost of living during the semester.

So what are we to do? With the budget impasse in its fourth month, can we anticipate a resolution any time soon?

It situation doesn’t affect only college students, but the entire education community. Public schools are running out of funds, resorting to loans to keep class in session.

Until a state budget is approved, payments toward education will not be made.

But we’re running out of money, or so it seems. Recent news reports have claimed that while Pennsylvania lacks a state budget, $27 billion has been spent since July. Funds have gone toward required programs surrounding health, safety and protection of Pennsylvanians – or as required under federal law – as well as commonwealth employee payroll, including pension contributions. And for every day the Senate is in session, money is being spent to operate.

Shouldn’t education be a “required program”?

As college students and general supporters of higher education, there needs to be a call to action to hold our legislators accountable. We need our politicians to see the impact it’s having on students and their families.

While the legislators reported being frustrated, think about your constituents who your decisions directly impact today, tomorrow and in the future.

Sarah Bedford

Hunlock Creek