Bush’s plan to raise Pell Grant may be misleading for students

Tim Magaw

President George W. Bush signed a bill into law last week that would raise the maximum Pell Grant award by $260. The increase is effective at the start of July, bringing the maximum award to $4,310.

Financial Aid Director Mark Evans said this is good news for some, considering about 10,000 students from the university’s eight campuses receive this kind of grant, which is given by the federal government. Because they are grants and not loans, students do not need to pay them back.

“The Pell Grant program is the largest grant program for any institution,” he said.

The legislation signed by Bush will fund most federal education programs for the remainder of the 2007 fiscal year. The president is calling for an even higher increase in the Pell Grant program in his 2008 budget plan, but it could be at the expense of other programs.

By 2008-2009, Bush plans to raise the Pell Grant to $4,600, increasing it by $200 each year. This could be the largest Pell Grant increase in three decades.

According to the College Board, the maximum Pell Grant award in 1977 covered 72 percent of the total cost of attending a four-year public institution. But by 2004, the maximum Pell Grant covered only 38 percent of the total cost.

But in order to pay for his possible increase, which has a five-year cost of about $19.8 billion, Bush has proposed the elimination of the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program.

“Eliminating the program would have a major impact on our highest-need students,” Evans said.

The supplemental grant program is for high-need Pell Grant recipients, and about 2,800 Kent State students receive one of the grants, he said.

Because allocations for the supplemental grants have already been received for the 2007-2008 school year, the elimination wouldn’t take place until 2008-2009. But if the supplemental grant program is cut, students could be out up to a thousand dollars in the first year, he said.

“If they continue to increase Pell Grants by two or three hundred dollars in the next few years, they could eventually break even.”

David Creamer, senior vice president for administration, said Bush’s Pell Grant proposal could misinform some.

“It means for many students they might not see as much grant money as they would have expected,” he said.

Evans said the government should find other ways to free up money to fund the Pell Grant increases.

“They shouldn’t have to take money from one program to fund another,” he said. “Education should take priority.”

Along with cutting supplemental grant programs, Bush has proposed funding his Pell Grant program with cuts in government aid for student loan programs and the Perkins Loans program.

Contact administration reporter Tim Magaw [email protected].