Speaking today at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy, where he was interrupted by 99 Percent Movement protesters, House Majority Leader (R-VA) fielded a question from a student asking why Cantor and the GOP support “reducing or getting rid of Pell Grants,” the federal grants that help low- and middle-income students pay for higher education.
Cantor disputed the claim, saying, “your direct question, allegation, I don’t know is accurate,” before launching into a non-answer about how the real issue is not the grants but the increasing cost of higher education. Watch it:
In fact, since coming to power, the House Republican majority — led by Cantor — has repeatedly set its sights on Pell Grants. Republican lawmakers have not only proposed lowering the maximum Pell amount from $5,500 (which is the level to which the Obama administration raised it) but also limiting eligibility, knocking one million students from the Pell program entirely. Republicans claim “we don’t have the money” to afford the grants, but the same House GOP budget that made cuts to Pell — for which Cantor voted — provides huge tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations that dwarf the cost of preserving the grants.
It’s also worth nothing that it was Cantor himself who, during July budget talks with the White House, proposed a cut “aimed squarely at college students” that would make students stat paying interest on their federal loans right away, instead of deferring until after graduation.
At a time when student loan debt is hitting new heights and joblessness is above 9 percent, Cantor’s response to a student genuinely concerned about financing his higher education is quite telling, especially when the GOP leader claims to agree that “the investment on higher education has an infinite return.”