100,000 Students Face Loss of Pell Grants

HR 3671, the $1 trillion bill that Congress has approved, means that the government will keep running but contains bad news for some 100,000 low-income college students. Pell Grants provide low-income students with funding for higher education and Republicans have been seeking to slash their funding for the past several months. The just-passed bill preserves the maximum amount of the grant, but changes the eligibility criteria and also the terms under which the grants can be applied.

Inside HigherEd gives the details:

The bill, HR 3671, draws from ideas put forward in Republican and Democratic spending plans earlier this year: it would preserve the maximum Pell Grant at $5,550, but change the program’s eligibility criteria, making as many as 100,000 of its 9 million recipients ineligible. The grants could be used for a total of 12 semesters, not 18, as in the past — a change that would affect an estimated 62,000 beneficiaries and take effect July 1, 2012. Higher education lobbyists said the limit would apply to any semesters a student was enrolled, rather than only those in which he or she attended full-time, as they had originally thought.

The maximum amount families could earn and automatically contribute nothing toward an undergraduate education would decrease from $30,000 to $23,000.

Under the new bill, students who lack high school diplomas or GEDs will no longer be able to qualify for a Pell Grant by taking an “ability to benefit” test.

The Chronicle of Higher Education points out that an earlier House bill, HR 3070, was even more stringent about Pell Grant requirements. That bill would have lowered the income cap even further, to $15,000, as well as significantly reducing how much income that working students could exclude when applying for student aid. HR 3070 would have also counted food stamps, refundable tax credits and untaxed Social Security benefits against applicants for aid.

Other student aid programs, including Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and Federal Work-Study, are to receive flat financing.

The change about the number of semesters for which a student can use the grant could mean, as Think Progress points out, that some students who are short only one or two courses to graduate will not be able to. Citing the Institute for College Access and Success, it’s noted that the changes in Pell Grant funding will disproportionately affect African-American students and transfer students. Many students from low-income backgrounds, as well as many students attending community college, are often only able to attend school part-time on the way to earning a degree, not because they want to but because the funds just aren’t there.

There’s no question that, even as the benefits of a college degree for life-time earnings and even one’s health have become more apparent, it has become increasingly difficult to fund a college education and especially for those who face the most challenges to pay the tuition bill.


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William Baylor
William Baylor6 years ago

Kristina C., Gee, lets punish the majority of kids who use the Pell grants and finally get a good education just because a few deadbeats offs abuse the system! Pell grants are basically use to allow kids that come from the bottom end of the money scale to participate in our educational system! I suppose you believe only the rich should get an education!

New G.
W. C6 years ago

Thank you for the news.

Kristina C.
Kristina C6 years ago

I don’t see anything wrong with changing the criteria that ” students who lack high school diplomas or GEDs will no longer be able to qualify for a Pell Grant by taking an “ability to benefit” test”. The way it stands right now is that there are too many students that do not pull their weight in class either because they are not able – or because they do not want to. In either case those students are getting funds that are pretty much wasted on them. I am not saying that I agree that funds are cut – but I do agree to establish some kind of criteria and qualifications to receive grants.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

J C Bro
J C Brou6 years ago

of one note; the GOP and their need for the rich to approve what they do.

Christopher M.
Christopher M.6 years ago

Save military service for illegals getting citizenship.

Christopher M.
Christopher M.6 years ago

Alumni of college and the military or anything tend to emphasize whatever they came from. And the military combat vets are by definition the survivors of war.

Hey I lived through hell and so can you!


William Baylor
William Baylor6 years ago

Sand y E., LOL Obama is the solution and the republicans rich scum are the problem lady!

Only members of the House may introduce bills that deal with taxes or spending. Before a bill can become a law, both houses of Congress must pass identical versions of the bill.

Once a bill is introduced in either house, it goes through almost the same process. Each bill is first assigned to a committee for review. The bill is tabled, or set aside, if the committee decides the bill is not worthy. The bill is sent to the entire house for debate if the committee decides the bill is worthy of further action.

If the bill passes, it is sent to the other house. A joint committee works out any differences the two houses of Congress have concerning a bill. When both houses agree on a bill, the Speaker of the House and the vice president sign it. The bill must be signed before being sent to the president.

Sandy Erickson
Sandy Erickson6 years ago

f-in Oboma!

KARLOLINA G6 years ago