The Pueblo West View

SHUTDOWN: Worries linger for colleges

The potential of a government shutdown brings with it uncertainty for higher education in Pueblo.

Both Pueblo Community College and Colorado State University-Pueblo receive federal money for programs and financial aid, but there’s no clarity on what a shutdown will do to those programs, officials said Monday.

PCC President Patty Erjavec said the college relies on up to $20 million worth of federal grants to operate its programs — as much as a quarter of the school’s annual budget.

Erjavec said some of the programs that could be affected include Upward Bound, the TRIO program that provides mentoring and assistance for at-risk students; and the Carl Perkins Vocational and Technical Education program that helps fund capital purchases at PCC, including equipment for the nursing and welding schools.

“We’re hopeful the government will remain sensitive to students’ needs and their desire to continue their education,” Erjavec said.

The $20 million figure doesn’t include the amount of federal money that goes to individual students in the form of grants and student loans.

Erjavec said about 80 percent of the students at the college — somewhere between 4,500 and 5,000 people — take advantage of federal student aid.

So if a shutdown affects both the grants to the school and financial aid, students could be hit with higher prices for their education and less money to spend on it.

Erjavec said that if federal aid were to be cut dramatically, the college would be forced to hike tuition, hit up the community for fundraising or both.

Ultimately, she said, it’s likely the students would bear the brunt of any prolonged shutdown.

CSU-Pueblo could not provide any specificity on what would happen under a shutdown, but the university is in a similar position as PCC.

Jen Mullen, chief of staff to CSU-Pueblo President Lesley Di Mare, said the school receives significant federal money for grant-funded programs and financial aid.

In February, when Congressional deadlock led to sequestration, Di Mare said as many as 80 percent of the student body at the university, roughly 3,680 people, took advantage of some kind of financial aid.

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The Pueblo West View