Upon graduation from a postsecondary education or the completion of a degree program it is pretty common to accrue a sizable amount of student loan debt in the process. However, “a Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid. Federal Pell Grants usually are awarded only to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor’s or a professional degree.” Hailed as a success of bipartisanship in Congress, the Federal Pell Grant has assisted the lives of millions of students around the country by helping to finance their college education. However, recent changes in legislation will alter if certain lower income students are eligible to continue to receive Pell Grants.
As recently as December 2011, to take effect this year; Congress revised the provisions of the Grant to 12 semesters or the equivalent of 6 years from 18 semesters or 9 years. For the national average of students that take around 4 years to graduate, this revision will not affect their current course of paying for college. However, for transfer students or part time students that need additional time to graduate, this change could prove devastating. Students that take longer than 6 years to earn their degree will be completely denied federal assistance by means of the Pell Grant. Examples of this removal of the Grant for needy students are exemplified by stories like Jay Keller.
“Two terms after he found out he had lost eligibility for the Pell Grant, Jay Keller was homeless. During the winter of 2012, the University of Oregon student relied on local shelters for food and lodging for himself and his two elementary school-aged sons, struggling to make it by after Keller lost over $6,000 of the financial aid he had been receiving.
Students around the country are being forced either to drop out or pay for an education with money they don’t have. The Pell Grant has been a vital means of aiding low income students earn a degree. We must force Congress to reconsider this revision in the years to come or risk the possibility of further legislative alterations. We should be fighting for all Americans to receive a quality education not exclude or increase the difficulty for the less privileged or fortunate Americans out there.
- Federal Student Aid: Federal Pell Grants.
- Hopkins, Katy. Jan 25, 2012. US News: Look Out for these Federal Aid Changes in 2012.
- Matsumoto, Samantha. March 25, 2013. Daily Emerald: Cuts to Federal Pell Grants cause trouble for low-income students.