College student fears losing Pell grant in federal debt negotiations

KANSAS CITY, Missouri - The future of Pell Grant funding mired in federal debt negotiations worries college students in need. At the University of Missouri-Kansas City, one sophomore is scared.

A Pell grant is a federally funded scholarship for cash-strapped households with college bound students. However, some politicians believe the program's billions of dollars deficit is putting a strain on federal spending. One UMKC sophomore believes cuts to the Pell grant program will only kill dreams.

On move-out day in Johnson Hall, interns leaving with their hands full have the same destination. Everyone stops at Caleb-Michael Files' table. He is more than their resident assistant.

"I help students on the floor during the summer and during the school year, I'm the social justice coordinator for LGBT and women's issues," Files said.

He is an advocate studying law. Files hopes to become a politician some day. These days, though, he's looking into politics at odd hours.

"I'll be honest that I was watching C-Span at 3 this morning," Files said.

He desperately wants to prevent the kind of turmoil he grew up with. He changed grade schools 21 times. Then, at age 13, the state of Missouri took him from his parents, Files said.

"It was drugs and other things in the house," Files said. "They just couldn't take care of me. They didn't have the financial means to do so. My second cousin (then) stepped up and took me in and we've had a great experience."

That cousin helped Files secure a Pell grant. It pays half his tuition, Files said. Without the grant, he would have to move off campus and possibly not enroll in classes until he found enough money, Files said.

"(I'd be) back to square one," Files said. "It's not a place that I want to revisit."

That is why at 3 a.m. he was watching debates on Capitol Hill. While politicians engage in partisan debate over solutions, Files has just one question.

"Why does it have to come at the cost of my education," Files asked.

Members of the Senate plan to debate their own version of a balanced budget bill Saturday. They could vote at 1 a.m. Sunday.

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