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Volume 70, Issue 23, Thursday, September 23, 2004

News

Bush proposes year-round Pell Grant

By Tina Marie Macias
The Daily Cougar

At the Republican National Convention earlier this month, President George W. Bush proposed an increase in the amount of federal student aid awarded to college students each year.

One of his proposals is the creation of year-round Pell Grants, which would offer financial aid for college students interested in attending summer school. Pell Grants are currently offered only for the spring and fall semesters at a maximum of $4,050 annually.

That amount covers 39 percent of tuition at an average public institution. In 1975, when Pell Grants began, they covered 84 percent of tuition, according to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

At UH, 8,710 undergraduate students were awarded more than $23 million in Pell Grants for the 2003-04 academic year, said Executive Director of Financial Aid Robert Sheridan.

During the same year, 412,148 students in Texas received more than $977 million in Pell Grants, the U.S. Department of Education said.

"I think it's a great proposal to have 12-month Pell Grants," Sheridan said. "The problem is that's not going to happen, because the Pell Grant program right now has a $4 billion shortfall."

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which will give the Pell Grant program $12.8 billion in funding for fiscal year 2005, an $823.3 million increase over the 2004 fiscal year.

The bill calls for the maximum grant amount to remain at $4,050; extra funding will be used to aid more students and pay back the program's deficit.

Sheridan said that if Pell Grants were extended to cover summer semesters, the maximum grant would probably become $6,025.

"It's highly unlikely that we'll see a 12-month program, only because that would increase the Pell Grant program by a third," he said.

Bush promised in 2000 to increase the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,100, but so far, that hasn't happened.

"There have been all kinds of education programs that have been passed in the law, but have never found the funding," Sheridan said.

The Department of Education would not discuss Bush's proposal with The Daily Cougar because of the "political nature of (the) question."

"The president has proposed (year-round Pell Grants), and that is where it stands," a spokesman said.
 

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