December 3, 2004

Pell Grant Reduction Affects Aid

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Up to 1.2 million low-income college students will have their Pell Grants reduced, and as many as 100,000 students will lose their grants entirely, in the 2005-06 school year after revised allocations by the omnibus appropriations bill that Congress passed on Nov. 20 for fiscal year 2005.

Although the bill increases Pell Grant funding by approximately $458 million for a total of $12.4 billion, Congress capped the maximum amount for each eligible student at $4,050 for the third consecutive year despite growing demand for the grants and rising tuition costs.

The bill calls for the U.S. Department of Education to modify the formula used to calculate student eligibility for federal aid, possibly reducing the average distribution of the Pell Grant by $300 for about 1 million students. Factors such as family income, size and tax burden are considered in the federal formula.

The change to the formula would likely have the greatest effect on families that earn $35,000 to $40,000 a year, according to Brian Fitzgerald, staff director of the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, which advises Congress.

Wendy Darwell, chief of staff to Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), said to The Ithacan, “Mr. Hinchey did vote for the bill but was very troubled by the educational provision. … This issue will absolutely be revisited.”

The omnibus bill also reduces overall federal financial aid funding by 0.83 percent, including cuts to the Perkins loan and the federal work-study program. The bill increases funding to programs such as the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and Gear Up, both by approximately $8 million.

The Pell Grant program serves approximately 5 million students from low-income families, and the number of recipients of this grant has increased 19 percent in the past two years, according to Fitzgerald.

Cornell officials could not be reached for comment in time for this article.

Archived article by Julie Geng
Sun Staff Writer