January 20, 2012

RIC Student to Join Whitehouse for State of the Union Address

Pell Grants Helped Providence Resident Afford College

Washington, DC – In the past year, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has been fighting hard to protect the Pell Grant program from harmful budget cuts.  As he prepares to continue that fight in the New Year, Whitehouse today announced that Travis Escobar, a Rhode Island College student who relies on Pell Grants to afford college, will be his guest at President Obama’s State of the Union address this Tuesday.

“As the cost of higher education continues to skryrocket in our country, Pell Grants are now more vital than ever to Rhode Island families, and I’m committed to protecting this program from any attacks in Congress,” said Whitehouse.  “Travis’ story is a great example of how Pell Grants can help our kids achieve their dreams, and I’m glad he’ll be joining me to help send a message to Washington: don’t cut Pell Grants.”

Travis Escobar is the first member of his family to attend college.  He is now in his junior year at Rhode Island College, where he majors in political science, and is serving his second term as president of the student government.

“I love this country because any hard working individual can achieve the ‘American Dream,’” said Escobar.  “I would not be able to work toward my dream of becoming a congressman if it wasn’t for Pell Grants.  I would like to thank Senator Whitehouse for inviting me to help promote this message that Pell Grants give young Americans a chance to chase their dream.  I look forward to hearing what the President has to say as he, along with my family, inspired me to pursue a life in public service.”

Last year, House Republicans attempted to slash funding for Pell Grants, passing a budget resolution that would have cut grant funding for over a million students by an average of $1,775.  Then, near the end of the debt ceiling debate in July, The Hill newspaper reported that some Republican House Members were opposing funding for Pell Grants – with some even calling the program “welfare” for our kids.  At the same time, the number of students receiving Pell Grants increased by 16 percent between school years 2009-10 and 2010-11, and the purchasing power of these grants has declined.  Today, the maximum Pell grant covers 32 percent of the cost of four year public university tuition – down from 72 percent in 1976.

Last fall, Whitehouse led a colloquy on the Senate floor with his colleagues to urge Congress to protect the Pell Grant program, and introduced a resolution to make it clear that the program should not be cut in any deficit reduction package.  He also published a piece in the Huffington Post about the importance of preserving the program.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921