Slightly more students given Pell Grants at GW

by Kierran Petersen

About 6.5 percent more GW students received Pell Grants last year.

About 1,480 GW students received Pell Grants, Associate Vice President for Financial Assistance Dan Small said. The University spent about $5.9 million on the aid program last year, Small said, adding that he expects similar figures for the 2012-2013 year, though numbers have yet to be finalized.

About 11 percent of GW students receive Pell Grants, which go to those who demonstrate exceptional need. Nationwide, the number of Pell Grant recipients sharply increased for the fourth-straight year. About 827,000 more students joined the program, which reached 9.7 million individuals. Students received an average of $3,984 in grants – the same average they would at GW.

The federal government set the cap this year at $5,550 for each student – $200 dollars more than last year.

Mark Kantrowitz, founder and publisher of FinAid, said students at colleges like GW may not see a dip in the number of students qualifying for Pell Grants this year, but they will feel a hit in the next few years.

“What we’re facing is a severe decline in college affordability,” Kantrowitz said. “The grants are not keeping pace with increases in college cost. That’s going to make it difficult for students to pay for school, especially low and moderate income students.”

Federal spending decreased by $2.2 billion to $33.4 billion, according to data released this month by the Department of Education, meaning more students are vying for a small pot of funds.

Federal cuts to the Pell Grant program are part of the belt-tightening process as the country’s debt looms, he said.

The eligibility and price of Pell Grants have been a hot-button issue this presidential campaign cycle, and November’s election could decide the fate of the program, many analysts say.

Paul Ryan, Republican vice presidential nominee, has faced criticism for proposing to further restrict students from qualifying for the aid and cutting almost $200 million from the program.

Ryan condemned President Barack Obama’s expansion of the program, which boosted the maximum grant size by almost $1,000 since taking office. The Obama administration has overseen the largest three-year growth in the program’s history, spending 15 percent more on it then when he took office.

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