Rutgers students will call for more federal college aid on trip to Washington, D.C.

(NewsWorks file photo)

(NewsWorks file photo)

President Obama’s address to the graduating class at Rutgers University has given students the incentive to call attention to education funding.

Less than a month before President Obama is scheduled to deliver the graduation address at Rutgers University, a dozen students will travel to Washington, D.C., in hopes of convincing the New Jersey delegation to Congress to increase federal student aid funding.

“When they’re meeting and trying to pass budgets and different legislation, we can’t be cutting money from student aid,” said Rutgers-Camden senior Gary Kopchinski of the message he hopes to convey to lawmakers on Tuesday.

“We can’t be balancing the budget on the backs of our students,” he said.

The students from Rutgers’ New Brunswick, Camden, and Newark campuses will call for an increase in the amount offered through a federal Pell Grant, which will max out at $5,815 per student in the upcoming year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

More than a third of Rutgers students receive Pell Grants.

The group will also press lawmakers to step up funding for unsubsidized federal loans and pour at least $990 million into the federal work study program, which employs more than 3,000 Rutgers students.

For Kopchinski, a political science and sociology double major, the trip is personal. Neither of his parents have college degrees and he relies on federal aid to attend college.

“If I didn’t have the opportunities from this federal aid, I don’t think I would be at Rutgers right now,” he said. “I don’t really know where I would be, because I don’t know how I would be paying for it.”

Kopchinski said that, given the busy schedules of lawmakers, he did not know specifically which Congressmen or Senators the students would get to meet with during their afternoon on Capitol Hill.

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