Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have proposed cutting Pell Grant awards by $2.3 billion in the federal government’s budget for the 2012 fiscal year. Their proposal would narrow the eligibility criteria for the grant. According to Reuters, students without a high school diploma and the highest-income beneficiaries would no longer qualify for the financial aid.
The Federal Pell Grant Program, which provides financial aid for undergraduates of low-income families, has gone through numerous changes since its introduction. The Pell Grant was established in 1972 as an amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965. Initially, it was intended to help those who otherwise would not be able to afford higher education. Over the years, it has collected several amendments, altering the award amounts, the eligibility requirements, and the available funding for the program.
But these proposals are especially threatening. If enacted, the cuts would not reduce the amount an individual receives from the program each year, but rather would reduce the amount of individuals receiving the grant. According to senior policy analyst at Center for Law and Social Policy Vicky Choitz, the changes would cause roughly 550,000 students to lose access to Pell Grants next year.
Currently, fifteen percent of Emerson College students receive the Pell Grant. That puts over five hundred of our own students at risk of losing the foundation of their financial aid package.
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for assistance from the government,” says Theater Studies: Acting Sophomore Lindsey Anderson. “Without the Pell Grant, I’d be stuck in Ohio and I wouldn’t be doing what I love.”
As the decision on cuts nears, several organizations are advocating saving financial aid for students like Anderson. The National Association of Student Financial Aid and Administrators (NASFAA) asks students to write to their Senators and Representatives. Letter templates are available on NASFAA’s website at http://www.nasfaa.org/. Students can also join the Save Pell campaign at http://action.edtrust.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=8553.