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Last month, Americans finally got their first look at the types of programs Republicans in the House of Representatives are looking to cut.

Students be warned — it’s not pretty.

The GOP budget cuts over $61 billion from federal programs that directly impact college students, including Teach for America and Pell grants.

I can appreciate the Republican Party’s rhetoric on curbing our national debt, but eliminating many of these programs will harm the United States education system while failing to actually address our nation’s debt problem.

Take, for instance, the ban on earmarks — money included in a bill to benefit a lawmaker’s home state. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and others have spent years criticizing this legislative provision for directing funding to bridges to nowhere and studies on the mating habits of crabs. Now I’m not particularly in favor of allocating federal funds to study crab mating, but the reality is that the true definition of an earmark does not just include individual members’ pet projects.

In education funding, anything that does not adhere to a federal formula is considered an earmark. As a result, a dozen national education programs are about to be cut this year. This includes $18 million to TFA, the wildly successful nonprofit organization that sends high-caliber college graduates to teach students in underachieving schools for two years.

With the education system struggling to entice and retain these types of teachers, TFA reports that a whopping 60 percent of its 28,000 alumni have stayed in education after completing the program. That’s remarkably successful.

Yet TFA still gets the axe. Eliminating this earmark would not doom TFA, but it would cause some serious problems. $18 million represents about 10 percent of TFA’s budget, and founder Wendy Kopp estimated that the loss of funding would mean a 20 percent cut in the number of teachers in 2012, according to Time magazine.

As The Economist sarcastically explains, “That’s what happens when you pass an $858 billion tax cut and then try to make up for it with cuts to domestic discretionary spending. Now if we can just eliminate 20,000 more programmes like Teach for America, we might get back to deficit-neutral, though it’s an open question whether future Americans will care about our achievement since they won’t know how to add.”

Pell grants, a program that awards need-based grants to low-income students, are also drastically cut by the GOP budget. By slicing $5.6 billion from the program, an estimated 1.7 million students will lose their eligibility to apply.

Even those with the greatest need will see their grants reduced by approximately 15 percent.

Curbing the national debt on the backs of students who are barely able to afford tuition hardly seems the right way to go. And while $5.6 billion is certainly not insignificant, it represents less than half of one percent of the nation’s deficit in 2011.

Yes, this country needs to do something about the national debt, but paper cuts do not bring down a 600-pound gorilla. Targeting students is easy, but until the politically unpopular cuts come — specifically entitlement reform and military spending cuts — the national debt will not be truly addressed.

In the mean time, Republicans and Democrats remain in a standoff, particularly since both sides’ budgets failed convincingly in the Senate on March 9. While both parties reportedly agreed to pass a three-week continuing resolution to fund the government, a government shutdown remains looming.

“I’d like to think that a shutdown is not a serious fear,” said Penn Democrats Communications director and College freshman Andrew Brown. “In the end, I think we’ll see some compromise.”

Although I’m far less optimistic that a government shutdown will be avoided, I would like to see some compromise as well — just provided that compromise comes from all sides and not primarily on the backs of students.

Evan Medina is a College senior from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. His e-mail address is Peace Not Politics appears every other Tuesday.

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