U.S. Dept of Education targets federal need-based aid program

by Taryn Wobbema

This article caught my attention after I read in the Chronicle of Higher Education that a Republican from North Carolina (Virginia Foxx, new chairwoman of the higher-ed subcommittee in the U.S. House) has said the Pell Grant program “would not be exempt from proposals to slash the federal budget.”

I went looking for more info and found news that another federal financial aid program might be in trouble. The Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) program “requires states to match the federal dollars it provides for need-based aid.” Because the program seems to have served its purpose in encouraging states to provide more aid to college students, lawmakers have been playing around with the idea of cutting the program. The program currently receives $64 million, but President Obama didn’t set aside any money for it in his proposed budget this year.

A report from the Education Department stated that states have their own programs and federal aid isn’t necessary. However, according to the Chronicle, Arizona and Wyoming use LEAP as their primary aid program. It’s the only need-based program in Georgia and South Dakota.

Here at the U, 7,439 students used the Pell Grant — which provides scholarships for low-income students — during the 2009-10 academic year. If I’m interpreting this table right, the average Pell Grant size was $3,747. Students at the U also received an average $1,442 from other federal scholarships. According to the Chronicle, LEAP includes funds for work study. The U spent $7,585,765 last year, which includes state, federal and UMN contributions.