The Ryan-Daines-Zinke Budget Will Make College Unaffordable for Montana Students


Given that both Representative Steve Daines and State Senator Ryan Zinke have expressed enthusiastic support for the Paul Ryan budget, with the former voting for it and the latter suggesting it doesn’t go far enough, it seems warranted to look at how the budget that both men support would affect the people of Montana.

Over the next few days, we’ll take a look past the abstract idea of the budget to the specific implementation here in Montana, starting with college affordability.

The Ryan-Daines-Zinke budget will cap Pell Grants at their current maximum for the next ten years:

Under the proposal, the maximum Pell Grant award would be frozen at the current $5,730 amount for the next 10 years. The budget would also leave all of the Pell Grant program’s funding up to the discretion of Congress each year, eliminating the mandatory funding stream that currently funds part of the program

Anyone with a passing familiarity about the cost of colleges knows that tutition and fees will certainly not be frozen over the next decade. In fact, between 2008-09 and 2013-14, tuition and fees at public four year colleges and universities increased by 27% over the rate of inflation. Freezing Pell Grant amounts will result in fewer students being able to afford to attend college.

In fact, according to Roger Riddell, the proposal will further reduce the value of Pell Grants, which have already seen a significant decline in the amount of college they pay for. He writes “Pell Grants, which once covered more than half of college costs for lower-income students and now cover about a third, would be frozen for the next decade and see around a 24% reduction by 2024.”

Despite claims that the cuts are to ensure that Pell Grants are only for the “truly needy,” the Ryan-Daines-Zinke cuts ignore the reality that Pell Grants are primarily awarded to students who come from families with low incomes. Stephen Steingleder explains:

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 74 percent of Pell Grant recipients have annual family incomes of $30,000 or less. Moreover, in 2011 Congress lowered the threshold from $30,000 to $23,000 for a student to automatically qualify for an “estimated family contribution” of zero dollars. That change makes it more difficult for low-income students to qualify for the maximum amount of financial aid

The cuts will be devastating for working class families, who will see the better future offered by further education become an even more unreachable goal.  Back in 2011, when Representative Rehberg called Pell Grants “welfare,” 24,000 students in Montana received the awards, a number likely to be even higher today.

That Representative Daines and State Senator Zinke would support these devastating cuts is especially problematic, given the huge debt Montana students face after college right now. According to the Project on Student Debt, the average Montana student graduating a public university in the state leaves with $27,475 in debt, 18th highest in the country.

If you want to ensure economic opportunity for Montanans, the last thing prospective members of the Senate or House should do is to propose cutting the program that best gives those living in poverty a chance to get a college degree. That Mr. Zinke and Mr. Daines agree with Paul Ryan, that tax cuts for millionaires are more important than grants for students, demonstrates they just aren’t looking out for the people they pretend or hope to represent.


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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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Big SwedeLarry Kralj, Environmental Rangers Recent comment authors
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Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers
Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

Jeebus! Herr Zstinke lived on the gummint TIT his entire adult life! Paul Ryan sucked large too! And Pee Wee Daines was BORN into sleazy wealth! Wealth without work, one of the seven deadly sins according to Ghandi! These guys suck!

Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers
Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

Ghandi on Teabilly a**holes!

•Wealth without Work
•Pleasure without Conscience
•Science without Humanity
• Knowledge without Character
•Politics without Principle
•Commerce without Morality
•Worship without Sacrifice

Yup. Mohandes had the teatards in mind!

Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers
Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

Who IS this empty suit daines? Simply a corporate tool. Strategy, money, luck aid Steve Daines’ ascendance By Matt Volz Associated Press HELENA — Steve Daines has rocketed from the unknown to being the face of the Montana Republican Party and the favorite to take a U.S. Senate seat that has been in Democratic control for a century, all before completing a full term in Congress. To hear the Bozeman Republican tell it, his rise is the product of “oldfashioned retail politics” that still matter in the vast smallness of Montana. That means heading to far-out places, getting to know… Read more »


Jeebus. They aren’t even pretending to hide their fascism any more. And why should they? They won. It’s game over. Sad that it turned out this way, for there was nothing democratic about the criminal way that the fascists won, beginning with the assassination of JFK. That allowed Nixon to bring in the REAL criminal element into government. They’ve been there ever since.

Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers
Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

Not to worry. Pee Wee daines and the christofascists have everything under control.

Where the HELL did America go? A helicopter? And a SWAT team? For a fetus!

And for all you folks on the other blogs who criticize me for pointing out how scary the crhistofascists are, are you guys beginning to understand?

One nation under god my AZZ! THEIR god is one very scary dude!

Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers
Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

Amanda Curtis should not back down one inch on the environment. If fact, she’s right on everything. She needs to stick to her guns, forget her advisors, and put the damn truth out there. And she will walk away with this thing.

Big Swede

College is overrated.

Somebody needs to ask us if we want fries with our burgers.


No, Weed. The question is would you like a Big KOCKH with your Rapture! You’re too easy, my old adversary. How’s your trees doin’? Any left that didn’t get the beetle?

Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers
Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers


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