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Congress cuts Pell Grant funding for summer classes

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Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 8:51 pm

DeKALB | Pell Grants for the summer of 2012 will see a decrease in funding levels, said Inali Saghu, associate director of Student Financial Aid.

In an email interview, Saghu said only students who are less than full time during the fall semester of 2011 or the spring of 2012 will qualify for summer Pell Grants in 2012.

"The decrease in summer Pell Grant eligibility was passed by Congress in the continuing resolution for fiscal year of 2011," Saghu said.

Gabrielle Wright, a broadcast communications and international relations major, said she has taken summer classes to complete her major, which requires nine hours of work outside of class.

In order to qualify for Pell Grants for the summer, Wright said she must apply for six credit hours. She said, however, that the grant can only pay for three credits.

"There still needs to be a push and a drive to have students apply earlier," Wright said.

Andrea Brack, freshman speech language pathology major, said she heard from fellow students who receive Pell Grants that they are going to receive less money next year than this year.

She said she also receives the grants but receives less than other students because both of her parents work. According to Wright, there is a cap on the amount students can receive depending on how much contribution they receive from family members.

A student like Javarus Jacobs, a sociology major who works in Neptune Hall, qualifies for the Pell Grant as he is an independent student who provides for himself. Jacobs said he wishes the grant would cover the costs of textbooks because he feels the costs of books could drive a student in debt significantly.

Alyssea Sago, a pre-med major and freshman, said the grants help to cut down on costs from student loans since they do not have to be paid. Sago said earning a 3.0 GPA qualified her for the grant.

"The Republican fiscal year 2012 budget resolution calls for a significant decrease in the amount of Federal Pell Grant funding in order to decrease the federal budget deficit," Saghu said.

The Congressional Budget Office predicts the continuing resolution would lower the maximum Pell Grant award for the 2012-2013 academic year from $5,550 to $3,040, Saghu said. This would lower the maximum Pell Grant amount by $2,510 per year on top of the decreases in state grant funding in the past year.

In a speech given to Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Virginia on April 19, President Barack Obama said he would fight Republican budget plans for Pell Grant cuts.

Due to the economic down turn, NIU has seen a 50 percent increase in Pell Grant recipients over the past three years, Saghu said. In the 2008-2009 academic years, there were 5,083 students at NIU who received Pell Grants, Saghu said. As of the 2010-2011 academic year, there are 7,619 Pell recipients.

"Funding levels for the Federal Pell Grant increased by $200 from academic year 2009-2010's maximum award of $5,350 to academic year 2010-2011's maximum award of $5,550," Saghu said.

In order to qualify for Pell Grants students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, Saghu said. Once the application process is completed, the Financial Aid Office sends out a notification of financial aid eligibility, which includes Pell Grant eligibility if the student qualifies, Saghu said. Congressional funding of the Pell Grant program dictates the amount of the award a student can receive.

"Pell Grant amounts are determined each year by appropriations approved in the federal budget, so current amounts are only valid for one year," Saghu said. "Futhermore, Federal Pell Grant qualification and rules can change whenever new federal laws are passed regarding the Pell Grant program."

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