Proposed budget will impact Pell Grant availability

Marina D. Sandoval

Sophomore Maria Hernandez has received both Pell Grants and federal financial aid since she started college. She said she has noticed that each semester her financial aid is decreasing and has heard rumors the Pell Grant funds are decreasing. This has her concerned.

“I have heard rumors that the Pell Grant was only going to distribute $5,000 for the whole year,” Hernandez said. “I’m an art student and there are a lot of supplies required of me.”

Hernandez is not the only student that needs help to pay for college. Lili Vidal, director of the Financial Aid and Scholarship Department said there are several proposals regarding Pell Grants in Congress and in President Obama’s budget. She added, the issue is important to CSUN students because there are about 15,000 students receiving $61 million collectively in Pell Grants.

“If the maximum Pell amount is reduced according to the bill in the House, it will reduce the number of students who can receive a Pell Grant, as well as the amount received by students who are still eligible for a Pell Grant,” Vidal said.

The first proposal will end the year-round Pell policy that lets students collect two grants in a calendar year, with the second grant used for summer school. A second proposal will reduce loan subsidies for graduate and professional students.

If Obama’s proposal to eliminate the year-round Pell Grant passes, about 1,300 students will lose about $1.5 million.

Vidal said these are just proposals and there is still a ways to go from having a federal budget for 2011. The Pell Grant is said to be an expensive program, but a vital one since it provides access to many low-income students.

Students wishing to apply for Pell Grants are encouraged to meet deadlines. The March 2 deadline is the California state deadline for initial awards, like Cal Grants and other campus-based grants. Pell Grants and Stafford Direct Loans are available throughout the entire filling period for eligible students.

Students who file by March 2 complete their applications by returning requested documents by May 2, could have their fall enrollment protected and have their financial aid ready by the start of the Fall 2011 semester.

Freshman Joanna Villegas, Chicano studies major, said she will apply for financial aid.

“My mother is disabled, it’s only the two of us,” Villegas said. “The money I get from financial aid, the Pell Grant and EOP are very helpful. I love school.”