Pell Grant gets boost

President George W. Bush has approved a plan to increase the federal Pell Grant after stagnant increases since 2003. On Dec. 26, 2007, the president signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act that establishes the maximum federal Pell Grant award for the 2008-2009 academic year.

The grant provides an opportunity for students from lower-income households to enter post-secondary education. The plan calls to maximize subsidies to $4,731 by 2009, a $681 increase from the constant rate since 2003. Statistics from documented an increase in rate of $300-400 per year that occurred from 1996 until 2002.

Since 2003, the Pell Grant offered $4,050 every year with no increase or adjustment for inflation.

A report by USA Today said the administration proposes reducing interest rate subsidies to private lenders by half a percentage point to offset the cost. The reduction would save the government an estimated $12.4 billion over five years, the Bush administration told the paper. Currently, Pell Grants cover about 33 percent of the average cost of tuition and other fees. This is less than half of the coverage from 20 years ago, when Pell Grants covered 60 percent of the costs. USF offers 31 percent of its undergraduate students financial aid.

It is required that students receiving this grant would have an income of less than $40,000-$50,000. USF distributes the grant to those with the most need first. Thereafter, the awards are proportionately reduced according to enrollment status. This year, 9,046 students were given Pell Grants. These students – and all who receive the grant – are primarily chosen by their income level, along with the cost of for the individual to attend school, their status as a full- or part-time student and their plans for attending the full academic year. This increase would help the 4,401 newly enrolled students attending USF, along with thousands of students across the country, cover the costs of higher tuition, expensive textbooks and other amenities.

“This would help my tuition, rent, living expenses and I wouldn’t have to take out a loan,” said Joe Michel, a junior who is a civil/environmental engineering major at USF.

Students who are interested in applying for the Pell Grant can do so through the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) Web site. The University’s office of financial aid also offers information on how to receive this federal money.