Federal grant funds decline, reports say

Jackie Mantey

Total funding for Pell Grants has decreased for the first time in six years.

A recently released study showed that while tuition at colleges and universities has been rising, Pell Grant funds are not keeping up. The reports were a part of the College Board’s 2006 Reports on College Pricing and Financial Aid — an annual study of trends in funding and tuition in higher education.

It reported that while four-year public colleges have increased in average tuition, fees have slowed for the third year in a row; however, after adjusting for inflation, prices are still up 35 percent from five years ago.

Thanks to the decline in Pell Grant funding, average recipients can expect about $120 less than the previous year. Total funding for the grants was $13.6 billion in the 2004 to 2005 academic year and dropped to $12.7 billion in 2005 to 2006.

The Pell Grant provides need-based financial aid for students that does not have to be repaid. Those eligible apply on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and receive a specific amount each year.

According to the report, FAFSA’s eligibility requirements may be the cause of the drop in funding.

Many families are now assumed to have higher after-tax incomes, making individual students eligible for smaller grants from the program. Also, the number of Pell Grants awarded only rose by 1.5 percent last year when it had been larger in years past, according to the study.

This year, Kent State’s tuition increased 6 percent, which is on par with other four-year public universities, said David Creamer, vice president for administration. He said Kent State has worked over the last several years to offset the imbalance of low federal funding in general by offering more institutional scholarships and increasing fundraising.

“Financial aid today doesn’t assist the student, and it’s hard with the federal government pulling away,” he said. “It’s a tragedy that all we do is talk about how important education is today, but then they make it more costly than ever.”

Contact administration reporter Jackie Mantey at [email protected].