Year-Round Pell Grant Eliminated
What it means for students
Published: Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 18:04
President Obama's fiscal year 2012 budget request proposed eliminating the Year-Round Pell Grant, which awards students financial aid during the summer to help speed up the degree earning process. On April 15th, Obama signed the FY 2011 spending bill, also known as the Continuing Resolution, which permanently eliminated Year-Round Pell awards beginning with the 2011-2012 school year. However, according to NASFAA, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, the Continuing Resolution "...maintains the $5,550 maximum Pell Grant for the 2011-12 award year and gives campuses the ability to offer eligible students a second Pell Grant award this summer."
During the beginning weeks of April, Parkland College would not yet award any students for the Year-Round Pell Grant for the summer of 2011. Tim Wendt, director of Parkland Financial Aid, said that the college is waiting on guidance from the Department of Education. On April 22nd, one week after the Continuing Resolution was signed, and less than a month from the start of summer classes, Wendt announced that Parkland had still not received the needed guidance from the Department of Education. Therefore, students are still unsure of the financial aid they will receive and are unable to make solid academic plans. Wendt was unsure of when Parkland will receive the needed information. He said, "It could be next week or even the week after."
Katie Harris, a Parkland sophomore, has begun her financial aid process. "I've filled out the required paper work, but I haven't received anything back yet." Harris continued by saying how she has only been able to register for one class. "It's the only thing that I know I can afford." Harris, along with many other students, are being forced to wait until the last minute to register for classes, because they are still waiting to know how much aid they might be receiving.
Some Parkland students, such as a group of students involved with Student Government, seem to be more in favor of the elimination of the Year-Round Pell. The group had taken a trip to the capital, where they received the opportunity to speak with experts on the topic on budget cuts in financial aid. One argument they had supporting the budget cut is that the Pell Grant will still be available during the fall and spring semesters. While many students from this group were supportive of the budget cut, it is important to note: one half of these students who were willing to talk about their financial aid statuses, claimed that they do not use financial aid, but instead pay tuition out of pocket.
The 15th congressional district includes 3 major public universities, several private universities, and almost a dozen community college districts. Phil Bloomer, Communications Director for Congressman Timothy Johnson, was very clear that Congressman Johnson is "very aware of the need for college aid and the Pell Grant situation..." Students, however, need to be just as, if not more aware and involved.
Bloomer advises that budget cuts are happening everywhere, not just in education, but also in defense, public broadcasting, and health care. Bloomer suggests that students "Be aware. Read newspapers... Understand what's going on. Write letters; call with questions... be skeptical of everything you hear on TV. Think independently... don't just accept verbatim everything that CNN or Fox or anybody else spouts off."
Bloomer and his office receive less communications from the "under 25 age group" than any other age group. While there are "hot-button" issues, such as immigration reform and the health care debate, that spark student interest, most communications and opinions come from faculty, not students.
When students are greatly involved with politics and decisions being made within their institution, big impacts can be made. For example, Syracuse University in New York, made decisions regarding summer financial aid in early March, giving students ample time to make summer academic decisions. According to the Daily Orange, Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, associate vice president for enrollment management and director of financial aid, announced that "If the federal government moves forward with the cuts... the university will fund the difference for Pell Grant recipients, whether they are incoming or returning students." How is it that a university can be so decisive with such confidence? Copeland-Morgan says, "The university is working with elected officials to help them understand the importance of federal financial aid."
Is it possible that Parkland students have to wait to the last possible minute for answers due to a lack of their own involvement in politics? Are students prepared for, or even aware of the cuts that are occurring to financial aid? One can only hope that student awareness increases. The payment deadline for summer courses is June 1st, and if courses remain unpaid the student will be automatically dropped. Prevent yourself from searching for help at the last possible moment. Be involved with and be prepared for what is to come.