Advisors: Students need to check out Pell Grant changes
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 30, 2012 11:04
As if budget cuts and tuition increases weren’t enough in these tough economic times, the government is also seeking to make changes to the need-based Federal Pell Grant, effective July 1.
“The Pell Grant for summer is based on what was not used between fall and spring,” said Santiago Vidaurri, a financial aid officer in the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships. “It is not available for all three semesters.”
Vidaurri also said these changes were brought on by the federal government.
Although this affects many students, some are just trying to roll with the punches.
“Cuts have to come from somewhere,” said Madison Harter, a graduate student seeking her master’s degree in public administration. “It just sucks that they look to education for those cuts.”
But there is some good news for students.
The maximum amount a student can receive from the Pell Grant is now $5,550, the highest it’s ever been, according to the CNN Money website.
However, a cap has been placed on the duration of the aid.
Once a student has received the Pell Grant for 12 semesters, or the equivalent, they will no longer be eligible for additional Pell Grants, according to studentaid.ed.gov.
If they have exceeded the 12-semester maximum, they will lose eligibility for additional Pell Grants beginning in the 2012-13 school year.
Also, a student will become ineligible for the Pell Grant if they earn a bachelor’s degree prior to reaching the 12-full time semester limit. This limit will be tracked by the U.S. Department of Education, according to the university’s financial aid website
Many students rely on the Pell grant to pay for college, but some students do not see the cap as a bad thing.
Sarah Hansen, a sophomore majoring in political science, said it will help make students more responsible.
“If you’re not messing around, then you should be able to graduate on time within the 12-semester maximum,” Hansen said.
Equivalency to the maximum is calculated by adding together the percentage of your Pell eligibility that you received each year to determine whether the total amount exceeds 600 percent, according to studentaid.ed.gov.
This includes all previous semesters at other colleges/ universities, according to the university’s financial aid website.
To put it more simply: if your maximum Pell Grant award amount for the 2010-2011 school year was $5,550, but you only received $2,775 because you were only enrolled for one semester, you would have used 50 percent of your maximum award for that year. If in the following school year, you were enrolled only three-quarter time, you would have used 75 percent of your maximum award for that year. Together, you would have received 125 percent
out of the total 600 percent lifetime limit.
And because of the cap, receiving a Federal Pell grant greater than 100 percent of the annual award is no longer an option with the 2011-2012 award year.
Which means a student who was full-time for both the fall 2011 and spring 2012 semesters will have no remaining Pell Grant eligibility for summer 2012.
Both Hansen and Harter agree that the Pell grant should cover the required summer credits needed to graduate.
“What happens if you’re relying on the Pell grant to pay for the summer courses you need to graduate?” Harter asked. “Sometimes required courses are only offered during the summer.”
Pell Grants are considered a foundation of federal financial aid, according to studentaid.ed.gov.
It remains to be seen if any other changes are in the works for the foundation of federal financial aid.