Pell Grants guaranteed for next year, schools still concerned

| News Editor

Although the U.S. Senate passed a resolution that will maintain Pell Grant funding for the 2011-2012 academic year, universities nationwide continue to be uneasy over the potential for future cuts to the program.

The Pell Grant program provides up to $5,550 to students based on their financial need, as determined by their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) profile.

The Senate decision from earlier this month overrides an ongoing House resolution that would have cut 1.7 million students from the program in the coming year. The congressional body did eliminate part of the Pell Grant program in its budget for this year.

Washington University’s Student Financial Services (SFS) is committed to ensuring that future cuts do not affect students at the University.

“If Pell Grant funding is reduced, the University will pick up the shortfall. There will be no impact on student’s financial aid awards,” Bill Witbrodt, director of SFS, wrote in an email to Student Life.

Although only 5.7 percent of the University’s student body receives Pell Grants, University officials have noted that cuts to the federal aid program would be felt.

“This is a big deal because we have between 400 and 500 day school undergraduates eligible for Pell Grants,” Witbrodt wrote. “At this point, we are alert for details about what may transpire so that we can calculate the financial impact on the University.”

While students support the SFS initiative, some are not confident in its capacity to cover indeterminately reduced federal funds.

“I’m not sure how they will fund this, just because of the scale,” junior Harish Chamarthy said. “I think it’s a valiant effort, but at this point I think it’s just them trying to say something now and take action later.”

The Pell Grant program has seen major increases in federal funding every year since 2008, but earlier this year, the Senate cut an estimated $8 billion from its budget by eliminating the year-round Pell Grant program, which provides for students to receive more than one grant per year. This is typically geared at funding students for summer programs in addition to fall and spring tuition.

Cuts were made to other federal scholarship programs this year. Federal Work-Study funding was cut by 0.2 percent, Federal TRIO by $25 million, and GEAR UP programs by $20 million. The Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership program—which funds state grant programs—lost all of its funding.

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