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Students may lose Pell Grant funding next year

Sept. 12, 2003

By Darrell A. Rodriguez, reporter

Baylor students may receive less Pell Grant funding and some even may be denied completely next year.

Pell Grant funds will be reduced by $270 million next year, and 84,000 college students may be denied Pell Grants entirely, according to a June 25 Congressional Research Service memorandum.

Cliff Neel, assistant vice president and director of academic scholarships and financial aid, said 2,016 Baylor students received Pell Grants last year totaling $5,064,991.

'Being in financial aid, any funding we can get for students is great,' Neel said.

Rori Sneed, an Independence, Mo., junior, said she was upset about the possibility of students being denied.

'It seems to me that we're spending money on a lot of different things that maybe aren't as important as education,' Sneed said.

Recent Pell Grant reorganization by the Bush administration is making college access more difficult, according to an Aug. 4 article in the Chicago Tribune.

House Education Chairman John Boehner, R-Ohio, however, said the Tribune had faulty information.

'The annual education funding bill recently passed by the House would add nearly an additional $1 billion to Pell Grant funding, bringing this year's total to an all-time high of $12.3 billion,' Boehner said.

Still, some politicians say the $1 billion increase may not be enough. The current education appropriations bill will provide the smallest education funding increase in more than eight years, according to an Aug. 22 news release from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

Even an annually published Federal Student Aid packet by the U.S. Department of Education leaves students wondering if Pell Grants will be available for them.

'Pell Grants for the 2003-2004 year [July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2004] will depend on program funding,' the publication said.

Baylor University's total average cost of attendance is $29,088, according to Baylor's 2003-2004 'Your Financial Aid Offer Booklet,' and the maximum Pell Grant award of $4,000 covers about 13.75 percent of that cost.

In 1987, maximum Pell Grant appropriations covered about 40 percent of tuition, fees and room and board at private institutions, and today the maximum Pell Grant covers about 15 percent, according to a press release from Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.

Dodd is among the politicians who feel the need for new initiatives to help remedy the Pell Grant funding situation.

Dodd is backing a new amendment proposed by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., to the annual education funding bill that would provide an additional $2.2 billion to increase the Pell Grant maximum award to $4,500. The proposed funding increase also would increase appropriations covered for programs such as GEAR UP, a program that helps disadvantaged youth prepare for undergraduate programs.

This may come as good news to Baylor, who participated with Waco schools in the GEAR UP program. The U.S. Department of Education has recently awarded a grant of $496,750 to Baylor to provide scholarship funds and other assistance for the GEAR UP Waco programs.

The grant will allow Cesar Chavez Middle School to install distance learning equipment and will allow Waco's Project Promise to hire additional project counselors for increased one-on-one interaction with students.

Despite Pell Grant funding concerns, some students feel that federal aid dollars are being misspent overall.

Monica Garcia, a Houston junior, said she felt that a lot of financial aid dollars don't go to the students who really need it, and that some students get dropped or go without books every semester. 'There's a lot of money wasting in the American financial aid system,' Garcia said.