The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Rich Williams
Higher Education Advocate
Office: 202-546-9707

Pell Grant Cut Would Lead to Massive Financial Aid Disruptions


As the U.S. Congress continues to debates a long-term budget plan for FY11, representatives from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group were joined by Rick Shipman, Director of Financial Aid at Michigan State University, and Misty Whelan, a High School Counselor in Pennsylvania, to warn Congress of the dire consequences in cutting vital financial aid programs, like Pell Grants, so close to next academic year.

Since February 1st, financial aid offices across the country have been mailing out financial aid estimates to students and families so they can begin to budget for their education and plan for the upcoming year. Polling done by U.S. PIRG showed 9 out of the 10 largest 4-year public colleges have already sent financial aid package estimates for families to begin planning.

New students must declare their plans by May 1st, an almost unattainable deadline if a proposal to cut Pell Grants is realized.

"Beyond the dollars and cents, cutting Pell Grants has real consequences," said Rich Williams, U.S. PIRG's Higher Education Advocate. "The millions of students who experienced the joy of opening their college acceptance letter just months ago will now be devastated opening a letter telling them that Congress just cut their financial aid."

A cut to Pell Grants this late in the award and enrollment process would upend the entire financial aid process for millions of families causing widespread disruption as financial aid offices notify millions of families about the changes made by Congress.

"It is important to provide students who apply for financial aid with the best available information as early as possible so that they can make informed decisions about what school to attend and how to finance their educational expenses," said Rick Shipman, Director of Financial aid for Michigan State University. "I dread having to send letters to thousands of students basically saying - although we thought you could afford college, unfortunately Congress has cut your Grant and it looks like you can't afford school after all."

High school counselors helping their graduating seniors plan for college know any cuts with so little time left in the school year spells serious consequences Late notification prevents counselors from helping families work through the tough financing decisions they face.

"Many of our students have made decisions where to attend next year, turning down other schools," said Misty Whelan, a High School counselor in Pennsylvania. "I can't bear to think of the devastation and frustration so many students and families will face getting a letter learning their aid was cut by Congress and they can't afford their college. Many will have few places to turn."

Congress is expected to reach a deal on a long-term budget proposal this week. This budget proposal will be based, in part, off of the House passed spending proposal that cut Pell Grants by $5.7 billion, a $845 cut to the maximum award for the students with the most need. 9.4 million students receive some level of Pell Grant aid.

To see examples of financial aid packages and the impacts of proposed cuts on students by region and income level click here:

U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress.