In the economic climate we’ve been having, funding for students is essential. One such program is the Pell grant system, which benefits low-income students. The program does not require repayment and is based on a financial need formula determined by Congress. Now, the federal government is looking at scaling back the funding for the program, which hits these students who need it most.
H.R. 1, the 2012 Fiscal Year proposal recently passed in the House of Representatives, would affect 8 million students nationwide, reducing many students’ payments of $5,550 by $845. To a student who may have few other options, $845 may be the difference between eating and buying books or supplies.
Even worse, the best hope for students in keeping the Pell grant system the way it is now lies in the Obama administration’s 2012 budget. The proposal would keep the maximum amount for Pell where it is, but would restructure the two loan systems currently in place for students. It would get rid of subsidized loans for graduate students and instead charge them a 6.8 percent interest rate. For all lenders –– grad students and undergrad alike –– it would eliminate the freeze on interest on loans while students are in school and instead charge them a 6.8 percent interest rate.
It would also get rid of the year-long Pell grant system, which allowed students to use Pell grants during summer semesters may be cut by the Obama administration. The program, which was expanded only a year and a half ago by the same administration, has been influential in helping many students, especially non-traditional ones, to seek their degrees in a timely manner from universities.
Students have watched in horror over the past decade as funding for universities and federal and state grants have been slashed again and again. Most of us at Northern still remember when funding for the ironically named Michigan Promise Scholarship was pulled out from under us mid-semester in the fall of 2009.
The same argument for the cuts being made is the same as the argument for not making them: the economy. Once again, students must find a way to take yet another hit and keep going forward as we try and get our education. In the meantime, we just watch as the government determines our future.