FOLSOM, California — “I feel like he’s telling me that only rich people should go to college,” Alexis Duclos said outside the Folsom community center.
It was the second Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) town hall the University of the Pacific senior had attended this week. Both times Duclos got up to the mic and asked her congressman why he voted to cut Pell grants, a vital program for poorer students like herself who want to attend college. Both times, her question was ignored.
DUCLOS: I am a Pell grant recipient and I paid for university on my own and that was something I wanted to do, becoming a first-generation college graduate, first in my family to go to school. [Applause] When my parents moved to this country they decided that education was the way to move forward and without the assistance of the Pell grant program that would be even more difficult for me. I’m already $35,000 in debt, not including my senior year. I’m not necessarily looking for a handout but I really believe that you have to invest in the children of today or for the future to really improve. So I’d like to know if you believe the Pell grant program should be cut and if so, what you would do to support California education’s high school and college students.
Duclos works at Kinder’s BBQ during the school year, but minimum wage has barely put a dent in the $35,000 in student loan debt she’s incurred during her first three years. Without Pell grants, it would be nearly impossible for her to afford college. Duclos is proud to be the first in her family to attend university, but she’s worried what could happen for students like her if Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget — which Lungren voted for — became law and Pell grants were cut.
“I feel like he hasn’t kept promise that if I work hard and give back to the community, I could get a college education,” Duclos told ThinkProgress.
Lungren will hold one more town hall this August recess. Duclos plans to attend and hopes she’ll finally get her question answered there.
“Please don’t make me fly out to DC, Mr. Lungren,” she said after the town hall. “I can’t afford it on $8 an hour!”