Students at risk of losing Federal Pell Grants

News about the Pell Grants being cut for the upcoming academic year has been buzzing throughout campus. The 25 percent of students who received a Pell Grant award this year will find out on March 4 if this budget proposal will pass.
Linda Wastyn, the associate vice president for advancement, recently came back from a trip to Washington along with Sister Joan.
“Sister Joan goes about once or twice a year to talk about the important needs for higher education,” Wastyn said.
The Pell Grant this year was a hot topic on everyone’s minds.
“Someone from Senator Harkin’s office talked to us about what the proposal was about,” Wastyn said.
The news from Washington quickly made its way to Julie Haack, director of financial aid.
Haack said there is a possibility that the full time maximum Pell Grant financial aid award would be reduced by 15 percent, resulting in an $845 cut. There is also the possibility for the award to stay at its maximum amount.
“Pell would stay at $5500, but then there needs to be other cuts to make up for it,” Haack said.
She expressed that this second proposal would be better for the students at St. Ambrose University. The second proposal consists of eliminating the year-round Pell Grant.
The 2011-2012 academic year would be the first year St. Ambrose would offer this new style of Pell Grant. Haack said this award is currently  used by students who would like to attend summer school.
“It would be better to cut year-long Pell because not many students come for the summer semester,” she said.
It is estimated that about $8 million would be saved by cutting year-round Pell Grants. The second half of this second proposal is to cut or reduce subsidies from graduate loans. Haack said that if the proposal passes, students will be affected beginning this fall. The only thing the university would be able to do is revise the financial aid awards.
“With such a large cut we would not be in the position to make up for the cut,” Haack said.
Across the nation, students would be affected as well. This is the main financial coverage for low-income students and the more than 9 million students who receive Pell Grants.
Wastyn and Haack are not going down without a fight. Wastyn said Senator Grassley’s office contacted her asking is she could write a briefing paper. She accepted and will write about how important the Pell Grants are for St. Ambrose and its students. It will also contain two or three student profiles about students who receive Pell Grants.
“When you put a human face to the story it becomes much more serious,” Wastyn said.
She believes it is not too late for students to make their voices be heard. Wastyn says each students’s individual voice will have a bigger impact even if the briefing paper serves as the “official voice.”
Haack and Wastyn urge students to write to senators and representatives. If a student would like to write a letter, Haack and Wastyn are happy to receive students’ letters and will mail them to Congress. They want students to know it is not too late to take action. By sending the letters to Haack or Wastyn, it will guarantee a quick arrival. Otherwise all mail has to go through screening before it gets to Congress.
Haack wants her students to have hope.
If all else fails, Haack has a plan that students should prepare for.
“If you are aggressive and look for money, there are scholarships,” she said.

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