Pell Grant Cuts
Congress had to revisit the Pell Grant funding due to the recent large government deficits in July 2011. In the proposed bill created by the Republican Party, the Pell Grant program would have seen a 15% cut or $845 in funding with 1.7 million less students becoming eligible to receive a Pell Grant. This would have been detrimental to many low-income students across the nation, since many depend on these funds to pay for their education. Without these funds, many students wouldn’t be able to have a chance to receive an education.
The final short-term spending bill that was agreed upon had eliminated the Pell Grant Summer funding to students that were below half-time during the fall or spring semester. Congress delayed the request to cancel the summer grant until next year (2012), which means the summer Pell Grant award only lasted two years.
In December 2011, congress met again to discuss budget cuts due to continued large government deficits. The Pell Grant was once again on center stage due to its continued large budget. Luckily, the Pell Grant award amount was not touched and remains at $5,550 for the maximum Pell Grant award amount. Students now can only receive the Pell Grant for only 12 semesters versus the previous 18 semesters. Students without a high school diploma must now have a GED to be considered for a Pell Grant.
It is estimated that nearly 100,000 students will be impacted by the new legislature. Students who take more than 12 semesters to get a degree typically are either transfer students who don't receive full credit for previous coursework or those working and supporting a family.
The bill also reduces the income level under which a student will automatically be eligible to receive the maximum Pell grants from $30,000 to $23,000. Fewers students will be able to receive the maximum Pell Grant amount, since fewer students make less than $23,000/year.
In 2008-2009, according to data collected by the College Board, 6.2 million students received Pell Grants averaging $2,945; in 2010-2011 9.1 million received grants averaging $3,828. As you can see, the demand for the Pell Grant continues to increase due to the weak economy and more students wanting to attend college.