Pell Grant program cuts eligibility for students

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - 10:05am

Big changes are in store for Pell Grants, the federally-funded program which provides money for lower-income students to go to college. In the past, students were eligible for the full amount of $5,500 a year if their families didn't make more than $32,000 annually. Now the maximum income has been restricted to $23,000. The changes are meant to save an estimated $1.3 billion, but critics say it could cut thousands of vulnerable students from funding they need.

At Southern Univesity in Shreveport, about 80 percent of all students receive some kind of financial aid, according to Katraya Williams, Financial Aid Director. One-third of those get Pell Grants. "We have seen a signficant drop in our students who were eligible possibly from last year for the maximum amount, and now they're not," she said.

There are other big changes, too. The grants have been time-limited to 12 semesters. They've also been restricted to include only students who have a G.E.D. or high school diploma. In the past, students have been able to work with colleges and universities to develop ability and placement testing to begin post-secondary education.

Bossier Parish Community College Chancellor Jim Henderson told us that's a big drawback for students at schools like BPCC, which trains students for high-demand fields. "Who in their right minds at the federal government thinks it's a good idea to delay entry into the workforce for skilled workers, I don't know, but somebody made that decision. We're working hard to get that reversed," he said.

The new Pell Grant guidelines will remain in place at least through the 2012-2013 school year.

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This is devastating all around the US. I just learned of this and called Financial aid at my college in PA who told me I was out of Pell Grants. I have run out of loans (just past my aggregate limit) also. I am only 4 courses shy of m BA degree -- it took longer as a non-traditional student because of caring for my parents who died 6 months apart in 2008, as well as dealing with divorce, and personal illnesses and family matters. I am praying I can find some way to pay this out of pocket.

This is devastating for so many people, myself included. I just got the notice that I wont be getting any more Pell Grants. I am only 4 courses shy of graduating, but I cant afford to pay 2200 dollars a semester for 2 classes, let alone 1200 a semester for one class. I was almost through! It took me longer to graduate because I had to drop twice in 2008- first my father died and then my mother died 5 months later. I also had to take time off for a divorce as well as for personal illnesses.

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SHOULDN'T EVERYONE HAVE TO PAY STUDENT LOANS I MEAN AFTER YOU GET THAT EDUCATION AND GET A GOOD JOB PAY IT BACK LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.

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