Obama’s proposed cuts could impact Pell Grants

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President Barack Obama proposed cutting higher education by $89 billion over the next decade to ease the impact of the projected $1 trillion budget deficit Monday.

The cuts to higher education spending will be reallocated for primary and secondary education, according to the budget. Pell Grants, need-based grants for low-income students, could undergo drastic cuts. The federal government provides the money for Pell Grants, and students do not have to repay them, said Thomas Melecki, UT’s director of Student Financial Services.

“Pell Grants usually go to our poorest students who are least able to pay for college,” Melecki said.

Currently, students can receive Pell Grants up to $5,500 in the fall and spring and $2,775 in the summer. Obama’s proposed budget would cut funding for the summer Pell Grant program, which the government instituted three years ago, and increase the interest rates for some student loans. His plan would also remove the subsidized portion of student loans for graduate students.

“What Obama’s proposal seems to point to is that the summer Pell Grant is not nearly as effective as they had hoped it would be,” said Miguel Wasielewski, assistant to the director at Student Financial Services.

The Pell Grant could be further impacted by a House bill that would decrease the maximum grant from $5,500 to $4,705.

“That is the major change that [the House is] looking at,” Wasielewski said. “They don’t want to really affect anything affecting the student loans or work study.”

He said the House bill would be more prone to impact lower-income students than Obama’s proposal.

Nearly 11,000 UT students received federal Pell Grants during 2010-2011 school year. UT issued about $44 million worth of Pell Grants during the fall and spring and about $4 million during the summer of 2010.

Public relations senior Brittany Ochoa said the Pell Grant helped her attend UT for the past two years even when her parents’ financial stability was unclear.

“I think this will really affect those who are unable to pay for college,” Ochoa said. “There could be potential for students to drop out of college and be discouraged in attending four-year universities.”

She said scholarship opportunities should increase to counter the cuts.

“Financial aid has supported me in pursuing my college career.” Ochoa said. “This grant has made me a first generation in my family to successfully get a jump start in my career in public relations. Without this grant, I cannot imagine being where I am today with my education.”