The 2011 Pell Grant Shortfall

Written by Michael Bennet

With the inception of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, or SAFRA, the federal Pell Grant program was thought to be in very good shape, as this piece of legislation relaxed the eligibility requirements, along with increasing the maximum award amounts.

This expansion was supposed to happen without any sort of issue, although this has proved to not be the case over the past few months.

Apparently the 2011 Pell Grant program is now in significant financial trouble, with an unexpected budget shortfall that could actually reverse the changes that were originally anticipated with the inception of SAFRA. While the numbers aren’t perfectly clear and accurate, a 5.7 billion dollar funding cut is expected to happen if Congress votes accordingly over the next few months.

This will essentially reduce the overall funding for the 2011 Pell Grant program, and will in particular impact maximum award amounts, potentially reducing the highest potential award amount to 4,705 dollars, a decrease from 5,550 dollars.

2011 Pell Grant Cuts and You

If the 2011 Pell Grant program does see a reduction in funding then you should expect to see a decrease in award amounts beginning in the fall of 2011. While it is not clear as to whether or not this vote by Congress would also have an affect on the eligibility requirements for the Pell Grant, it is quite obvious that it would not be a good thing in any way, shape, or form for any student who was counting on getting a full Pell Grant award for the 2011-12 school year and beyond.

You shouldn’t worry too much as of right now as these changes haven’t passed Congress, and even if they do become law, 2010-11 Pell Grant funding and awards will not be affected at all. This means that if you were awarded a Pell Grant for x amount of dollars for the 2010-11 school year, even for the summer terms, you will still be able to get those awards exactly how they were originally supposed to be given to you.

The school year that will be affected by this Congressional vote will be the 2011-2012 academic year, so when you receive your SAR after submitting your FAFSA for the 2011-2012 pay special attention to the area that reveals your Pell Grant eligibility status.

While a reduction of over 800 dollars isn’t debilitating, it is a very large reduction that shouldn’t be taken lightly by students, parents, and interested education professionals alike. The Pell Grant program is the largest federal educational grant in existence today, with roughly 11 to 12 percent of all undergraduate students receiving Pell Grant aid for the 2010-2011 school year.

If you have the time don’t hesitate to write, or communicate in some capacity to your government officials, and in particular the members of Congress that serve your particular area of the country, as this could at least let them know that this sort of reform is a bad move, and one that will make it more difficult to afford the costs of getting a higher education for years to come.

Update. Please view this post about the 2011-2012 Pell Grant cuts to learn more about the impact this Congressional vote has had on the Pell Grant program.