Students are altering their education plans and universities across the country are feeling the effects as changes to federal student aid take effect for the upcoming school year.
The changes, listed on the Federal Student Aid website, include limiting a student’s eligibility for Pell Grants to the equivalent of 12 semesters and lowering the expected family income cutoff (which is used to determine family contribution when applying for aid) from $32,000 to $23,000. The interest rate on federally subsidized student loans was also set to double until Congress passed a bill at the end of last month preventing that from occurring.
Though the changes to the Pell Grant program could affect upwards of 100,000 students across the country, the full effects may not be known for a while. “It’s probably a little early to know how everything will play out,” Todd Hollingshead, with University Communications, said.
Students are altering their plans to accomodate these changes. Sylvester Ramirez just graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a degree in electrical engineering. “Without federal aid,” he said, “I would have starved, been homeless and never been able to attend class.”
Ramirez did the math during his third year of college. At the pace he was going at, he would’ve graduated after his fifth year of college. But because of these changes to federal aid and tuition increases, he realized he’d have no money for a fifth year of school; he needed to graduate by the end of his fourth year.
“So there I was,” Ramirez said, “working two jobs, taking 20 units and surviving. I barely had time to study, eat or do anything at all. It was one of the hardest times of my life. Everything demanded attention and time, and I had very little to give. But in the end I came out on top. I graduated this year!”
Universities across the country are also feeling the effects. “One effect we are seeing from the change in Pell Grants is a dip in our spring and summer enrollments,” Hollingshead said. “This is because the changes have done away with the year-round awarded Pell Grants. BYU is not alone in experiencing these effects.”