Last Saturday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would cut the Pell Grant, a post-secondary educational aid program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, by $815 – a more than 15 percent cut.
Sophomore Communication Major Nadia Williamson said she is worried about the bill since she relies on the Pell Grant for basic necessities.
“That’s the money I use to pay my rent, to buy my food,” Williamson said. “I work part time, but it’s only 20 hours a week at minimum wage, and it’s a little difficult to get by on that.”
Elaine Henrie, director of the student financial aid and scholarships office, said that in addition to cutting the grant, the House voted to do away with supplemental grants.
She said Emporia State receives about $199,000 a year in supplemental grants and matches 25 percent of the funds received in additional student aid. Henrie said that if the program disappears, that is an additional $253,000 lost.
While the House passed the bill, it has yet to pass through the Senate and, as Henrie said, “face a good fight.”
Even if the bill does not make it through all of Congress, a cut to Pell Grants could be inevitable, according to the Obama administration.
President Obama stated last week in his press conference for the 2012 Budget, “The take-up rate on the Pell Grant Program has skyrocketed. If we continue at this pace, sooner or later what’s going to happen is we’re just going to have to chop off eligibility.”
The goal will be met by eliminating the year-round grants and the in-school subsidized interest for loans to graduate students, according to the President’s 2012 Budget.
Henrie explained the process of awarding the grant as entirely determined by FAFSA results, based on the income of students’ parents.
Henrie said ESU received a little over $6,000,900 in Pell Grants for this academic school year and if the 15 percent reduction were enforced, a little over a $1 million would be lost.
This year, 1,759 ESU students received Pell Grants. If the total amount awarded were to be evenly distributed to those who qualify, each student on average would receive $3,930, a loss of $750.
“It’s not very tough to keep the aid,” Henrie said. “You have to complete 75 percent of the hours with a 2.0 GPA – if you lost your aid, it’s probably because you stumbled.”
Williamson said she believes the Pell Grant cuts could force some students to change their decisions on college.
“Maybe they won’t go to a state university and they will have to go to a community college, which I think is unfortunate for our options to be limited,” Williamson said.
However, if the rate decrease is not passed in the Senate, the loss of the year-round Pell Grant will not affect Williamson at all and with no plans to attend grad school yet, she is not sure the unsubsidized loans would have an effect on her either.
Henrie said she views the interest rates on graduate school loans as a more practical means of making cuts.
“The graduate students got the help at the undergraduate level, so maybe it is time for them so assume a little bit more of that burden,” Henrie said.
A page on Facebook called ‘Save Student Aid’ is sponsored by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and aims to rally against cutting funds for education. It encourages students to be aware and vocal in the decision-making process of education budget cuts.