Grant cuts cause concern

Approximately 4,500 University students received Pell Grants last year.

Lacey Crisp

After the U.S. Congress recently changed the way it calculates who receives Pell Grants, University students and officials are waiting to see how the change will affect them.

The change happened Nov. 20, when Congress passed a bill that could make almost 100,000 students nationwide ineligible for Pell Grants and decrease award amounts for more than 1 million others. The grants go to students with the most financial need.

At the University, where approximately 4,500 students received Pell Grants last year, some said they are concerned about the proposal.

Alice Arkens, a first-year student, said getting less financial aid wouldn’t force her to quit school, but she’d have to pay more in loans.

She said the University should try to help students by stabilizing tuition before taking on risks such as paying for an on-campus stadium.

“It seems stupid to me that we are talking about building a stadium when tuition keeps rising,” Arkens said.

Although Pell Grants come from federal funds, state funding for higher education has also been decreasing.

“I’m sure for those students who depend on the aid, it would be frustrating,” Arkens said.

Kris Wright, director of the student finance office, said Congress made the change to use current tax tables, which will affect 20 percent of Pell Grant recipients.

For the first time, educational spending will be reduced by approximately 1 percent, Wright said.

“Right now, students are going to be forced to pay more out of their pockets,” Wright said. “It’s forcing students to be more self-reliant.”

Wright said the Perkins Loan program, which gives loans to financially needy students, could also be in trouble because Congress is not appropriating money for the loans.

Between those federal and state cuts, it could mean an increase in tuition for next year, Wright said. But overall, she said, it is too early to predict what tuition rates will look like for next year. The Minnesota Student Association had agreed to a 5.5 percent increase, but that will depend on the amount state legislatures give the University.

The combination of increasing tuition and less aid will make it “much more difficult” for low-income students to attend college, Wright said.

“It’s an ongoing talk in academics of how you keep low-income students coming with decreasing funds,” she said.

Although senior Lauren McKay doesn’t receive Pell Grants, she said it would anger her if the funds were taken away completely.

“If it’s going to mean that some people can’t afford college, they need to re-evaluate the program,” McKay said.

She said there are other options for students who won’t be getting the grants, such as loans.

“Hopefully, after college, people can pay for their loans, though,” McKay said. “If people want to go to college, there is always a way, through subsidized loans and other help.”