Published: Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 01:06
It has been decided by Congress to make changes and reduce availability of Federal Pell Grants for thousands of underprivileged college students, causing their education plans to prolong or deteriorate completely.
Federal Pell Grants, unlike loans, which do not have to be repaid, are education aid provided to disadvantaged students and undergraduate low income students.
Currently, an independent student or one belonging to a family of four members accumulating $30,000 or less annual income automatically is eligible for the maximum Pell Grant award, $5,550 at 12 units.
However, the Auto-Zero EFC—expected family contribution—Threshold is making a drastic change lowering the eligibility annual income to $23,000.
“It is unfortunate that the changes are going to hit our underserved youth,” said Lilia Medina, director of Financial Aid at Citrus.
“Primarily our low income, poverty stricken students are going to be affected.”
When filling out a financial aid application, students must have a certain amount of EFC points. The higher the EFC is, there is less Pell Grant eligibility. The lower the EFC, the more Pell Grant eligibility.
Currently the EFC number is set at 5,273.
The new law will state that in order to receive a Federal Pell Grant, a student must qualify for 10 percent of the maximum award for the applied year reducing the EFC number to 4,995.
Presently recipients of the Pell Grant are able to benefit from the aid for as long as nine years of post secondary education.
With the changes being made, the Lifetime Eligibility Used will now be reduced from nine years to six years. Therefore, those students who have been receiving aid and have not completed school in six years, will no longer be able to obtain federal aid.
“Students are now going to have to decide on what their goals are at a much earlier point,” Medina said. “The moment the student begins education at community college, the clock begins to tick.”
She also said that students are going to have to start thinking about their educational goals as early as high school years and they are going to be expected to be more focused and really perform in order to benefit from the services and programs.
Changes are to be in effect as early as July 1 of the current year, interfering with the summer courses students are relying on to carry on with their education.
According to Matt Krupnick, writer of the Bay Area News Group, the changes in Pell Grant requirements are going to mostly affect new students—65,000—who do not obtain a high school diploma and those who have been attending college for more than six years—63,000.
The reduction of Pell Grant availability is expected to save $11 billon over the next 10 years.
Currently the federal government has disbursed $14,153,000 to aid 4, 986 Citrus students through Pell Grants.
“It is unfortunate but I’m not surprised,” said Brandi Garcia, ASCC member and commissioner of public relations. “It is a direct reflection of what is taking place in the economy.”
The American Association of Community Colleges stated that African-American and Latino students—combined make up 14 percent of undergraduates—will be affected the most.
However, this change will raise undergraduate ratings and certainly discourage students in all other nationalities.
“Education is a privilege,” Garcia said.
She said that she would like to see students remain courageous and strive to be better because that will make a reflection on the students attending Citrus.