Pell Grants may be reduced

By Autumn Keiss

Students around the country may receive less financial aid and benefits for the 2011–2012 academic year.

President Barack Obama and the Republicans in the House of Representatives plan to cut the Federal Pell Grant Program.

Obama’s 2012 fiscal budget proposal calls for $100 billion cuts in different areas of the Pell grant.

At Olivet, 1,092 students receive Pell grants, and 946 of those are traditional undergraduates.

If the program is cut, those students would no longer be able to use more than one grant each year. Currently, students can receive two grants, one for the summer semester and one for the regular academic year, according to CNN.

The summer program, created in 2008 and first used by Olivet in 2010, only supported 77 Olivet students last year.

“The stats say the summer program doesn’t help students graduate faster,” Greg Bruner, Director of Financial Aid. “I think that, instead, students are just lightening their loads.”

If Obama’s proposal is accepted, the program would also stop paying interest on graduate student loans, according to the International Business Times.

His plan would keep the maximum Pell grant at $5,550. The Times said that a different plan by the House Republicans would lower the maximum grant to $4,705, which is an $845 decrease.

The 414 Olivet students who receive the maximum Pell grant would be most affected by the cuts.

But even if Congress does not lower the maximum awards, all Pell grant recipients will lose money.

Obama’s plan will keep the grants at their current level, but they will no longer increase annually.

“Tuition goes up every year everywhere,” Bruner said. “In theory, if the tuition cost goes up and the Pell doesn’t increase, students will lose about 1 percent. But most students move up a grade level, so they gain $1,000 in other aid, like Stanford loans.”

While both plans will affect students, Bruner believes Obama’s proposal will have the smallest impact.

“Leaving the maximum amount of the Pell grant alone is better than cutting it,” he said.

Both Obama and Republicans are seeking cuts to the program because of a need for less government spending.

“All of us are faced with a quandary,” Bruner said. “As a financial aid person, I want the money to go up. As a taxpayer, I want the government to do better financially. However, anything that helps our students is great.”

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