Matt Rosendale Must Explain Why He Opposes Pell Grants and Student Loan Programs

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Video surfaced last week of Senate candidate Matt Rosendale calling for an end to federal funding for colleges and universities, completing the challenging Burns-Rehberg-Rosendale maneuver of attacking students, veterans, and firefighters as a Montana politician.

You really must see the video in all its eloquent glory to appreciate just how out-of-touch Rosendale is with the needs of Montana students and their families.

What Rosendale, who attended, but did not appear to graduate from Chesapeake College, seems not to understand is that federal assistance in the form of Pell Grants and student loans is critical for Montana families.

The last report available from the Department of Education shows that over 17,000 Montana students received Pell Grants totaling $66 million dollars in 2016-17. Those grants make the dream of college a reality for many Montana students, who otherwise simply could not afford the costs of attending institutions inside Montana and out.

And most of those who receive Pell Grants absolutely need them. The Institute for College Access and Success notes that, nationally, Pell Grants help over seven million low-income and middle-class students attend college, with the “vast majority of Pell recipients hav[ing] family incomes under $40,000.”

Another group of students depend on federally-backed loan programs to facilitate their college dreams that drive both their personal success and economic growth in our state.

The financial challenges faced by Montana students and their families are, in part, caused by the unwillingness of Republican legislators like Rosendale to adequately fund Montana’s colleges and universities. A story from 2017 notes that Montana ranks 40th in the country in college affordability. It takes a special kind of thoughtless cruelty to inadequately fund public universities at the legislative end of the process and then call for reductions in the loans that make college more affordable on the other end.

Rosendale’s remarks echo those made by Congressman Denny Rehberg back in 2011, when he called Pell Grants “the welfare of the 21st century.” They also likely come from the same worldview, one that holds the tax code should be rigged to give trillions back to the wealthiest Americans while we defund public institutions, public education, and access to what’s left of the American Dream.

And his remarks demonstrate that Mr. Rosendale not only doesn’t understand the needs of Montana students but that he doesn’t care about them or the long-term economic health of the state.

Mr. Rosendale, who can’t seem to speak without saying something stupid or offensive, is in full-fledged flight from the Montana media these days, but I hope he’ll explain to them why doesn’t support Montana’s colleges, universities, students, or families.

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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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