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Congress should maintain the federal student loan program and strengthen Pell Grants, a coalition of 576 universities, education groups and other advocacy organizations told lawmakers in a letter Wednesday.

"Recent troubling proposals to significantly cut or eliminate funding for Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), Federal Work-Study (FWS), TRIO, GEAR UP and other programs threaten the stability of our nation’s higher education and work force systems," the letter said. "Federal student aid serves a critical role in preserving access to higher education and enabling student success at a time when postsecondary education has never been more necessary to support the American economy."

The White House "skinny budget" document released last month proposed eliminating SEOG as well as significant cuts to Work-Study, TRIO and GEAR UP. The budget blueprint also proposed taking $3.9 billion from the Pell Grant surplus without language expanding the grant.