Budget to increase Pell Grant funding

By Whitney Blair Wyckoff

President Bush’s proposed budget would increase Pell Grants for the 2008-09 school year, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced.

Pell Grants are need-based scholarships given to college students.

Spellings made the announcement in her keynote address during a forum about higher education in North Carolina on Feb. 1.

“The reality is as costs skyrocket, it becomes increasingly difficult for middle class families to afford college,” Spellings said in her address.

“And for low-income, mostly minority students, college is becoming virtually unattainable,” she added.

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The proposed budget would increase the maximum Pell Grant a student can receive from $4,050 to $4,600 next year, and to $5,400 in 2012.

This is after the House of Representatives passed a similar bill that would raise the maximum Pell Grant award to $4,310 per year. If passed, this new maximum would apply during the 2007-08 school year.

Dan Mann, director of the Office of Financial Aid, said currently 4,679 University students receive $12,802,202 in Pell Grants.

If the President’s proposal passes, Mann predicts that 5,100 students will receive $15,080,000 in grant money.

While Mann said that he is happy with the increase in funding, the increase probably would not equate to the difference between being able to afford the University or not.

“It’s only a piece of the overall cost,” he said.

There is some criticism of the program. In order to pay for the program, Bush is proposing a cut in funding for other federal financial aid programs, including the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program.

Through this grant program, colleges can supplement the financial aid packages of students who have the most financial need.

Nationally, about 1.3 million students receive monetary awards through the grant program.

Mann said that 533 students on this campus receive $889,883 from this program.

“I don’t want to loose the funds for these students,” Mann said.

The American Council on Education predicts that the roughly one million students who receive these grant awards of over $300 would end up losing money during the first year the program goes into effect, according to their Web site.

Bush’s proposal will also cut other financial aid programs like the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership, Perkins Loans and the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarships.

Also, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Bush’s proposal will reduce the amount of subsidies given to companies who lend money to students by $18.8 billion.

Critics say this cut will make loan companies less apt to participate in student loan initiatives.

Regardless, Mann said that he anticipates an upcoming increase in Pell Grant funding.

“It looks promising,” he said.