Pell Grant cuts may affect up to 50 students

Some of GW’s most economically disadvantaged students may lose a total of $100,000 in federal financial aid as legislation recently passed by Congress awaits President Bush’s signature.

The legislation affects students who have been awarded Pell grants, the main form of federal aid for underprivileged students. Congress’s move, if signed into law, allows the Department of Education to revise how it calculates financial aid starting in the 2005-06 school year.

A “rough estimate” conducted by financial aid officials shows that the legislation could affect the grants of 35 to 50 GW students and decrease Pell grant funds by a total of about $100,000, said Daniel Small, the University’s director of financial aid. GW received a total of $2.6 million in Pell grant money from about 1,000 recipients during the 2003-04 academic year. The average award was $2,600.

“There will be a loss or reduction in Pell funds for some of our students under the current proposal,” Small wrote in an e-mail. “It is our understanding the students with the larger awards should remain the same.”

Small predicted that students who barely meet the current requirements for a Pell grant could lose their $400 minimum awards.

GW determines a student’s financial need after looking at all funding a student receives, including Pell grants, Small said. The University could help students who lose Pell money.

“If a student is no longer receiving the Pell funds (and all other manners stayed the same from last year), more than likely the loss of the Pell grant would be made up of GW and work/loan funds,” Small said.

On a national level, 1.2 million students could lose all or part of their federal aid, The Los Angeles Times reported. One million students’ grants will be reduced by approximately $300, and 90,000 students are expected to lose their grants entirely, officials at the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Aid told The Times.

The congressional bill added more money to the Pell grant program, but stricter guidelines will make getting the awards more difficult, and those who currently have Pell grant awards may receive less money.

Bush administration officials have given no indication when the president will sign the bill. Republicans said the bill would increase the amount of Pell grant recipients and stave off future cuts to the program.

Democratic leaders had harsh words for the Republican Congress’s actions.

“The Republican Congress just threw students who need Pell grants to afford a college education out into the cold,” Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) said in a statement.

Corzine, who has been one of the most vocal opponents of the legislation, said the government “should be expanding opportunities for college in America, not eliminating opportunities for students to seek financial aid.”

“I don’t know how the Bush Administration can call themselves compassionate when they are throwing students out of the opportunity to seek a college education,” he said.

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