As the financial burdens of tuition increase, the federal government has added another financial pressure for more than 90,000 college students.
Last November, Congress passed a bill cutting Pell Grants for hundreds of thousands of college students.
Under the bill, the Department of Education will update the formula used to calculate students’ Expected Family Contribution. This new formula will now make it harder for students to qualify for Pell Grants. This federal grant program for higher education is usually awarded to undergraduate students and does not have to be repaid. According to the Department of Education, the maximum grant for the 2004-2005 school year was $4,050.
An estimated 90,000 students are expected to lose funding, according to the American Council on Education. In addition, 1.2 million students are expected to see a reduction of $200-$300 beginning in the fall 2005 school year. The upcoming cut in Pell Grants is estimated to save the Department of Education $300 million.
The students hardest hit by the tax table update are those whose household income is between $35,000 and $40,000, according to the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance.
The average debt for 2002-2003 graduates was $22,000; this figure is likely to climb for students graduating in 2005 and beyond. Students may replace this loss in grants by taking out more loans or working a part-time or full-time job.
“When I had a job [last semester], I was working 20 hours a week,” said freshman Alison Garrett, a theater major. For Garrett, a Pell Grant cut would mean tacking on extra work hours with her already demanding course load and five hour theater rehearsals. Because her mother already works two jobs to support Garret and her younger sister, Garrett feels her only option would be to “cut theater and work more.”
Freshman Laneshe Miller, a communications major, already works 13-15 hours a week as a part of her work study package.
“It’s not fair because every year the cost of going to school is higher and higher, and they’re taking away the amount of money they’re giving us each year,” Miller said.
Miller has already thought about ways to replace the money if her grant is cut.
“I would consider getting a second job outside of work study,” Miller said.
Temple’s Student Financial Services has yet to calculate just how many university students would be affected by the legislation.
Pell Grant cuts will not affect the majority of college students; however, most students still face the burden of paying for college. Aside from loans, there are other ways students can pay for college.
Students who do not have the time to write extra essays and fill out extra applications may enter free scholarship lotteries. The lotteries are sponsored by companies trying to attract visitors to their Web sites. For example, www.iwon.com gives away $10,000 a day through random selection. The Publishers Clearing House Web site also participates in the free scholarship lottery. These Web sites fund the scholarship giveaways by selling visitors’ e-mail addresses. The odds of winning are less than 1-in-10,000.
There is also the Students Sponsorship and Education Investments program, where companies finance students’ education for a percentage of their annual income a number of years after graduation. This may be a good alternative for students who do not want to take out loans and worry about interest rates. Information about the Students Sponsorship and Education Investments program can also be found at www.finaid.org.
Renita Burns can be reached at email@example.com.