During the recent campaign, President Obama claimed credit for increasing funding to the Pell Grant program, which provides college funds, free from repayment, to millions of students. However, an email sent out Tuesday to some Dallas college students is revealing a detail the President forgot to mention: the time a student can receive a Pell Grant has been cut, by as much as three years. With Pell Grants for the fall semester now dispersed, colleges are informing students of their options, bringing the cuts to light.
The email, sent out by the Dallas County Community College District, informed students of the changes to the Pell Grant program. It revealed that the number of semesters a student could receive a Pell Grant had been cut from 18 semesters down to 12. It is a detail likely unknown to most students; in fact, the cut in grants has gone largely unreported by the media.
The email states that the cut in eligibility was part of an education bill President Obama signed into law in 2011. "On December 23, 2011, President Obama signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (Public Law 112-74). This new federal law states that the amount of Federal Pell Grant funds a student may receive over his or her LIFETIME will be reduced to the duration of a student's eligibility from 18 semesters (or its equivalent) to 12 semesters (or its equivalent). This new law applies to ALL Federal Pell Grant eligible students effective with the 2012-2013 award year beginning July 1, 2012. (DCL-GEN-12-01)"
The cut in grant eligibility has serious ramifications for non-traditional students. Part-time students who do not receive a full semester grant may lose out on funds if they do not earn an undergraduate degree within 12 semesters. Adults who go back to school, including retraining for a new career, will also have limited access to grants.
The amount of the grant varies based on family income (with a current yearly maximum grant of $5,550). If a student gets a grant less than a maximum, and a year later finds their income level has been reduced, they will not be able to recoup the difference in the lower amounts earned in a previous year. The cut in eligible semesters makes it difficult for students to make up that gap in later years.
This cut in eligibility was never mentioned by President Obama during the campaign, and when he boasted about increasing funding to the Pell Grant program, CNN fact-checked his claim as true. While the amount of government funding to the program is going up in future years, CNN failed miserably by not pointing out the cuts in eligibility to students. The cuts could be a rude awakening to students who thought President Obama was expanding their educational opportunities.
Victor Medina writes for Yahoo News and his political blog When Liberals Attack. His other writing credits include The Dallas Morning News and SportsIllustrated.com. He has served as a Dallas County election judge and on the Board of Directors of The Sixth Floor Museum. You can follow him on his blog, VictorMedina.com or on Twitter at @mrvictormedina. To be notified of future stories by Victor Medina, click the SIGN UP or SUBSCRIBE button at the top of this page.
Source: Dallas County Community College email