Students fear the future of Pell Grants under proposed funding cuts

By Abbie-Lauren Meredith, News Editor –

Pell Grant PicNathan McWhinnie, a freshman at MCC, has a Pell Grant and other financial aid, and said

that is a major reason why he can attend college.

He said it would difficult to afford college without financial aid.

“I’m paying my own bills and college by myself,” he said. “It has helped a lot.”

McWhinnie is in the same position as many college students at MCC and across the country,

many of whom are concerned about the request by the Trump administration’s request for $18

billion in cuts to education, health, and research in the 2018 budget blueprint. These cuts include

eliminating $3 billion from federal Pell Grants.

A memo was sent to the House and Senate on March 24 that gave the first detailed look at

the proposed cuts.

The next couple of weeks Congress will work to agree on a budget to fund the government

and avoid a government shutdown.

The proposed cuts pose a major problem for college students who rely on federal aid.

Currently, more than eight million students from low/modest-income families rely on Pell Grants

to help with college costs, including at MCC.

“I would say a good amount of students at MCC rely on Pell Grants to cover tuition,” said

Lois Smith, senior clerk in the Financial Aid office.

A significant cut to the Pell Grant funding will make affording college more difficult for

students during a time when tuition is on a steady rise. Research has shown that need-based grant

aid significantly increases the number of students able to attend college and reduces the chances

of a college student dropping out.

The motive behind the proposed cuts is to fund the emergency request made earlier this year

for a $30 billion increase in defense spending, $3 billion for border control, and $1.5 billion for

construction of the Mexican border wall. The cuts made to the listed domestic programs are

intended to offset the rise in cost for Trump’s defense and security plans.

A large decrease in funding for Pell Grants would put eligible students in an extremely

difficult position to afford higher education, although the proposed cuts may not go into effect

right away, or at all. The issue is not knowing whether financial aid will be available for the fall


“The most a student can do to apply for Pell Grants is to submit all the proper forms and

information for FAFSA as soon as possible,” said Smith.

A budget plan by the House Budget Committee calling for the large cuts of Pell Grants has

been in the works for a few years. The current HBC plan freezes the maximum Pell Grant at

$5,755 for 10 years.

The purchasing power of Pell Grants has been on a steady decline for decades and now

covers only about 30 percent of tuition for a four-year public college, according to data collected

the College Board and the Department of Education.

The plan attempts to justify the large cuts by questioning its effectiveness. The House Budget

Committee indicates that the cost of Pell Grants is rising rapidly. In fact, they are projected to

decline by 0.5 percent annually, per the Congressional Budget Office.

The committee also has said that Pell Grants drive up the cost of college, but little evidence

suggests that, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.

Students who qualify for Pell Grants are already facing challenges to completing college, yet

a study by the Department of Education found that Pell Grant recipients completed their degrees

faster that other students.

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