For many low-income students, the ability to receive an education is about to be stripped away by lawmakers that claim to care about Mississippi. Last week, a program was put before the state legislature to alter Mississippi’s current financial aid plan. If this program is accepted, many financial resources that are offered to low-income students will be taken away.
This proposed program is called the “Mississippi One Grant.” Under this program, financial aid will be based on need and merit. This looks great on paper, until it was announced that this program will directly eliminate the Higher Education Plan for Needy Students (HELP) grant. Maybe if our lawmakers got a proper education, they would understand that the Higher Education Plan for Needy Students actually spells HEPNS and not HELP, but I digress. The HELP grant caters to students from low-income households. More specifically, the HELP grant is Mississippi’s only need-based grant that covers all for years of college. However, under the Mississippi One Grant, the poorest of citizens with even the highest ACT scores can hope to receive a maximum of $4,500 per year. This means that under the Mississippi One Grant, students who qualify for the HELP grant may face a loss of more than $1,500 each in financial aid. Now I am no economist, but even I can tell you that that much money can go a long way. The elimination of the HELP grant, and the act of poorly replacing it, is a direct attack on the poor citizens of Mississippi.
Cost is one of the main reasons students from low-income families have a hard time going to college. There are only so many loans a student can take out before they are drowning in debt. The HELP grant was created to prevent the financial barrier to education and help these exact families. Research has shown that education has been and is a way out of poverty, and students with a college degree have fared far better than their peers who did not get a higher education. This means that going to college is a good way for these students to pave their way out of poverty, but if lawmakers strip away the HELP grant, thus providing a larger financial barrier to higher education, there are less ways these students will be able to get out of poverty in the first place.
However, there is still hope. State legislators have not officially voted on this program. Many people are speaking out against the program in hopes to sway lawmakers into voting against it. Hundreds of students have signed an online petition against the Mississippi One Grant, hoping it will prove to lawmakers that the people of Mississippi want to keep the HELP grant. Only time will tell if these measures will work.
At the end of the day, I cannot help but make conclusions about how lawmakers look down on the poor of Mississippi if they are willing to strip away basic aid to these students. Education is a way to help the citizens of Mississippi get out of poverty, thus helping society as a whole with better-educated people. I hope lawmakers will realize the negative effects of this program and will not implement it. Only the future will show if the people in power truly care.
Willow Crosby is a sophomore majoring in accounting from Tupelo.