House votes to reduce Pell Grants

Julie Sickel

Pell Grants may be in danger for the 2012 to 2013 fiscal year.

The United States House of Representatives voted Friday to reduce the maximum Pell Grant by 60 percent from the current $5,500 level to the 2008 pre-stimulus level of $2,090 in 2012.

“It would obviously be devastating,” said Mark Evans, director of student financial aid. “We have a little over 18,000 students enrolled across our eight campuses at Kent State that rely on a Pell Grant award, which exceeds $70 million this year.”

The new budget resolution comes just a week and a half after disagreements between democrats and republicans over the FY 2011 budget threatened a total government shutdown.

President Barack Obama signed a budget deal Friday that moved to eliminate the summer Pell Grants for FY 2011, which previously made it possible for students to receive two grants in a single award year. A press statement from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators said the cut is projected to save $8 billion over the next two years and help lower a potential $20 billion Pell Grant shortfall for the 2012 to 2013 academic year.

The President’s plan will make up for the cuts and make the nation stronger in the long run, Representative Tim Ryan said in a press conference call Friday. Ryan’s office did not return phone calls to expand on this statement.

Evans explained the current Pell Grant level is a result of the federal stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and if they were to stay at their current level, a more permanent source of funding would need to be found.

“These are things that are in discussions, but the likelihood of the severe changes coming into place is to be played out later this summer,” Evans said.

Students apply for the Pell Grant annually by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Kent State’s priority deadline for the FAFSA is March 1. The amount of grant money awarded to students is based on the number of enrollment hours a student takes and the estimated family contribution of the student.

The university supports the continuation of the Pell Grant program at their current level, Emily Vincent, director of university media relations, said in an email statement.

“Since Pell Grants are given to students with the greatest financial need, any cuts to the Pell Grant Program would not only be detrimental to these students, but may make it impossible for them to complete their education,” Vincent said.

Contact Julie Sickel at [email protected]