New proposal may increase Pell Grants

Daily Sundial

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Low-income students receiving Pell Grants could benefit from an increased amount of financial aid funding, as part of the College Access and Opportunity Act, but at the same time, a lack of funding for other financial aid programs may lead to the cancellation of other programs.

The act is currently in its beginning stages, and is aimed at expanding the access to college for low-income individuals.

Part of the bill’s aim is to “strengthen Pell Grants and reduce loan costs,” said Vartan Dijihanian, press secretary for California Congressperson Howard McKeon.

But under the act, students whose household income is between $35,000 and $40,000 per year would lose their eligibility to receive Pell Grants, while students whose household income is under $35,000 would lose access to several hundred dollars for their aid rewards, according to a spokesperson for the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance.

The problem, in this early stage of the bill, is that other financial aid programs may be sacrificed in order to get the extra Pell Grant funding, said Kathryn Anderson, CSUN Financial Aid director.

The bill, which still needs to undergo revisions, would benefit far more CSUN students than it would hurt, Anderson said. It would have a greater negative effect on colleges like UCLA, which have more students reliant upon the financial aid programs that would be cancelled as a result of the bill.

For example, the low-interest Perkins loan is received by 200 to 300 of the 19,000 total CSUN students who receive financial aid, and would be cancelled under the new bill.

The TRIO program, which is not offered at CSUN, would also be discontinued, Anderson said.

John Li, senior communication studies major and a financial aid recipient, said he does not feel one financial aid program should be strengthened at the expense of another.

“I feel (financial aid) should be evenly distributed,” Li said. “I think the government should take more action in budgeting it.”

Radwa Moustafa, junior psychology major, also disagreed with the potential change in the Pell Grant increase.

“I think financial aid is fine the way it is,” Moustafa said. “I haven’t had any problems with it.”

The Pell Grant program would be expanded to offer high school students who complete the State Scholar’s program a financial bonus, in addition to the normal Pell Grant, called a “Pell Grant Plus,” Dijihanian said.

Forty-eight percent of students who qualify for college are unable to attend four-year universities for financial reasons, and 22 percent cannot afford to go to community colleges, according to Dijihanian. He said that by the end of the decade, if things continue as they are, two million students will miss out on college altogether.

If the bill passes, Dijihanian estimates that these changes will likely take two years to go into effect.. Anderson said she does not feel the bill would pass in its current state, due to the fact that the government would have to discontinue other programs to strengthen one.