Students Suffer as Pell Grant Benefits Are Cut

Barry Lenson

Pell Grant BenefitsYou can read about it in dozens of places online. Just at the time when thousands of American students were expecting to get good news about their Pell Grants, they were told that they were getting nothing – not a cent – from the Pell Grant program this year. Most of the students who are affected attend community colleges. Some of them apparently got bills instead of the checks they were expecting.

Take a moment to read these two stories about the crisis . . .

So, what happened to Pell Grants?

Last June while Congress was battling over spending cuts, it made cuts to the program. Those changes may soon be made more permanent, because a revised version of the Higher Education Act is about to go to Congress for approval.

What are those changes? Bear in mind that these changes may not become permanent, because the Higher Education Act has not yet been passed. But let’s take a closer look at what they could be . . .

  • If passed, the Act would increase the number of minimum credits that a student would have to carry in order to get a Pell Grant. In other words, no funding would be available for students who want to take only a few courses at a time.
  • The Act would put a limit on the number of “remedial” classes that students would be allowed to take.  Students who attend community colleges to take the courses they need to complete high school or to meet basic distribution requirements before transferring to larger state institutions would be ineligible for aid.
  • Students would only be eligible for Pell Grants during 12 semesters. (Currently, they are eligible during 18 semesters of college study.) That might be a good way to cut the cost of the Pell Grant program, but it is brutal, and it victimizes students.
  • Summer courses would be excluded from Pell Grant funding. (We’re not kidding about this!) Somehow Congress, in its drive to cut costs, decided that Pell Grants could not be used to pay for summer courses and wrote that idiotic change into the Act. Let’s hope that somebody in Congress wakes up and takes a look at it before voting.

What Can You Do?

There’s a very simple answer to that question – call your congressman or congresswoman.  Just say that are concerned about the current and proposed cuts in the Pell Grant program.  If representatives get calls from “grass roots” voters like you, they might wake up and do the right thing for American students and American community colleges.

If you don’t know who your reps are or how to contact them, CLICK HERE to go to Consumer Action’s Take Action Page. You can find contact information for your representatives by entering your Zip Code.

Related Readings

What’s a Pell Grant? How Can You Get One?
Applying for Scholarships Or as I like to call it, “Winning at Tuition”
Unusual Sources of Financial Aid
Connecticut Woman Sells Historic Baseball to Pay off Her Son’s Med School Debt

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