By Jenni Culkin
The federal government is threatening to put a cap on Pell Grants over the next 10 years. A news brief released from the American Council on Education on April 22 stated that “this year’s budget proposal would freeze the Pell Grant maximum.”
63 million dollars of Pell Grants are awarded per year. More than 3,700 students on the Ammerman Campus receive Pell Grants. The freeze will affect about to 8,700 students across all campuses of the College.
“This semester, after I bought textbooks with my Pell [Grant], I received $100 back,” said Taylor Zierau, a current full time student at the College who receives financial aid. “And that’s fair enough but my financial situation would change significantly for anything more.”
One of the consequences that some financial aid specialists fear is student loans. Zierau described the accumulation of further loans in her financial situation as “terrifying.”
“If they freeze the Pell Grant, economically disadvantaged students will have no choice but to borrow,” said Rose Bancroft, the College Director of Financial Aid. “If they [students] borrow, they’re more in debt.”
The proposed freeze would cap the amount of aid that a student can received per semester at $2,888. Bancroft is concerned that keeping education from remaining affordable to the economically disadvantaged population could prevent students from going to or finishing school.
“You’re actually cutting off their dream,” Bancroft said about making school unattainable for students and potential students at certain income levels.
“Everything comes down to money,” Nancy Brewer, the Director of Financial Aid for the Ammerman Campus, said. “In some ways it’s a rationing system.”
Since financial aid from the government is limited, the government must distribute resources in a way that benefits the most amount of students in the best way possible. This is why Brewer stated with urgency that students should “take a careful look at their own expenses” and “meet with financial aid staff to determine eligibility.”
“I benefitted from [Pell Grants] way back when,” Brewer said about her time as a student of higher education in the 1970s. “I want current students to benefit the same way that I did.”
“The Federal Student Aid bureau determines the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) based on the answers entered on the FAFSA,” said Veronica Miller, a financial aid specialist from the Ammerman Campus. “The EFC code is what determines if a student is eligible to receive a federal grant called Pell.”
A hearing to prevent the proposed freeze from being implemented was held on April 29 at the Grant Campus of the College, according to financial aid specialists and directors at the College. It is unclear at this time whether or not the hearing was successful at persuading legislators to abandon the proposed freeze.
According to the American Council on Education, the U.S. House of Representatives proposed the budget freeze. After reaching out to the communications director at the office of the U.S. Congressman that represents our district in the House of Representatives, a quote from the Congressman was sent back in response.
“The budget I voted for will ensure Pell Grants will continue to serve our neediest students, providing them with access to a quality education.” U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who represents NY District 1, said.
Some financial aid specialists from the College, including Miller, don’t believe that the proposal will go into effect. The American Council on Education said in a separate news brief that “it has virtually no chance of clearing the Democratic-controlled Senate.”