Students could receive fewer pell grants next year

Than Tibbetts

More than 50,000 Minnesota college students are projected to receive less grant money as a result of changes made to the federal formula that determines a student’s financial need, state officials said Tuesday.

Susan Heegaard, Higher Education Services Office director, told a Senate committee that, on average, students will receive $184 less in combined state and federal Pell Grants in the fall.

Also, approximately 3,000 students who would have received state grant money in 2006 will now not receive state grant money because of the changes.

Grants are determined by assessing the cost of tuition against a student’s “assigned responsibility” – a set figure of almost $6,000 – and the amount a student’s family is expected to give in support, which varies with income.

The new federal formula lowers the amount of taxes that can be counted against a student’s family’s income, making the family “look richer,” said Mark Misukanis, director of fiscal policy and research for HESO.

Misukanis said the changes affected Minnesota and Wisconsin families the most, as 81 percent of students in both states would have their amount of expected contribution changed.

Because the Pell Grants affect what a student’s perceived need is, the amount of money the student receives through state grants could decrease.

While 36,000 students will receive smaller state grants, approximately 19,000 predominately low-income students will see an increase in state grant money, Misukanis said.

Because of the decrease in state grants, the state will “save” almost $7 million, HESO officials said. But Gov. Tim Pawlenty recommended the money be reinvested into the state grant program, officials said.