Pell Grants face possible cuts after current year
The federal Pell Grant program, a source of student funding for about 9.4 million students nationwide, is safe from falling over the fiscal cliff — for now.
As President Barack Obama and leaders in Congress continue to negotiate how to address the year-end fiscal cliff — a $500 billion combination of scheduled tax increases and mandatory spending cuts that take effect in January — they will be forced to find a quick solution or risk plunging the nation back into a recession.
And when it comes to higher education, funding for financial aid and federal grant programs are equally uncertain.
Val Meyers, the associate director of the MSU Office of Financial Aid, said the fiscal cliff isn’t likely to directly affect student aid immediately, but a long-term solution to federal student aid won’t come so easily.
Although Pell Grants are protected for this year, they face a $5.7 billion shortfall for the 2014 fiscal year that could endanger them in the future, according to Inside Higher Ed.
Next year, Congress will take up the Higher Education Act of 1965 for reauthorization, which is federal legislation that oversees many student aid programs, including Pell Grants and federal subsidized Stafford loans.
Meyers said Congress could choose to focus on all of the act or just parts of it, which will affect which details of the act are renewed.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen — if they’ll look at the whole federal aid regulations for next year or if they’ll just look at a little bit,” Meyers said.
A shortfall might necessitate program cuts to the maximum amount of aid given or the number of students who receive Pell Grants, she said.
Psychology sophomore Hanna Reed, who has received $2,775 in Pell Grants each semester she’s attended MSU, said if Congress puts less of a priority on financial aid, future college students might have less certainty about funding their own education.
“Being a college student, of course I think there should be more of an emphasis on this issue, but I understand there are other things that take precedent,” Reed said.
College of Education Dean Donald Heller said he thinks Obama will continue to look for ways to make financial aid better for students — after campaigning on promises of aid reform and curbed college cost — but stabilizing the Pell Grant program isn’t a simple solution to addressing college affordability.
Spanish senior Zac Tomczyk said any potential changes to financial aid programs could mean fewer students being able to afford going to college altogether.
Tomczyk said he comes from a low-income family and has maxed out his federal student loans, leaving other funding sources, such as Pell Grants, as the only option for paying for college.
“Honestly, it scares me that it might get cut because … a lot of students might not be able to attend college without that support,” he said.