Picture this: A balding, middle-aged man is mowing his lawn while examining the finer things life has provided him. He sees a gleaming automobile, a new grill and a massive home while his wife smiles and his children prance in the background. “How do I do it?” the man haughtily quips to the viewer. His face drains of color as he mutters the painful truth college students know all too well. “I’m in debt up to my eyeballs.”
The Department of Education recently announced that due to a revision in eligibility requirements to the oft-utilized Pell Grant, some 90,000 students would be stricken from the rolls of recipients. According to an Associated Press interview with Brian Fitzgerald, staff director of the Advisory Committee on Financial Assistance, “it would [also] cause about one million prospective Pell Grant recipients to have their eligibility reduced by an average of $300.”
Though the deduction alone won’t break the bank for many college students, the shortsightedness of the Department of Education and President Bush’s broken promises won’t provide much superglue to help the matter.
The Department of Education’s revised procedure to determine worthiness is based on new state and local tax information concerning “low- and middle-income families,” according to Terry Hartle, Senior Vice President of the American Council on Education. Years ago, taxes were much higher than they currently are, so once the formula was updated by the Department of Education it was decided that families must “have more income available to pay college expenses than they [once] did,” according to an AP article.
What seems like logical mathematics-taxes go down, people take home more net pay-is actually a sign of laziness and incompetence by the Department of Education. The formulas to determine who can receive a Pell Grant are supposed to be updated on a regular basis. According to Hartle, this hasn’t happened for the last 15 years.
That means parents and students trying to carry the costly burden of attending college now must also bear the brunt of a load thrown on them by the Department of Education-a load that has been building steadily for more than a decade.
The Pell Grant program, which was introduced in the mid-1970s, has grown in popularity over the years. According to the article, a third of college students receive aid under the program’s umbrella, and “19 of 20 Pell Grant recipients have annual family income… of less than $35,000.”
So the department’s logical math, though correct, was illogically implemented and quickly projected onto the shoulders of cash-strapped families with little warning.
These families also saw tuition costs rise last year at the rate of 10.5 percent for four-year public schools, 8.7 percent for two-year public colleges and 6 percent for private universities, according to College Board statistics cited in the article.
These increases have left the average college student with $17,000 in debt, even though students may be forced to work longer hours during school or to borrow money elsewhere in order to chisel away at their burgeoning loans.