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Congress in late December completed action on the 2012 federal budget.  Changes in student aid policies were among the issues included in the funding package.

The good news is that the annual maximum Pell grant award will be maintained at the $5,550 level for the 2012-2013 academic year.  Given an increased need for assistance and a larger number of eligible students, the total cost of Pell grants has significantly increased during the past several years.  Keeping the maximum award at $5,550, therefore, required other budget cuts to fund the increased costs.

Changes in the program, which become effective July 1, 2012, include:

  • The lifetime limit on Pell grants will be reduced from 18 to 12 semesters
  • Ability-to-benefit students (those who do not have a high school diploma or GED) will be eliminated from the program
  • “Auto-zero” Expected Family Contribution, meaning immediate qualification for a maximum Pell award, will be set at $23,000 of family income (down from the current $30,000); this may impact up to 75 Canisius students
  • Students from the highest family earners who have been eligible for Pell awards, who have received a $555 grant, will be eliminated; up to 42 Canisius undergraduates may be affected by this change
  • The in-school interest subsidy on student loans for the six-month grace period following undergraduate graduation will be temporarily eliminated between July 1, 2012 and July 1, 2014

In addition to changes in Pell, other education programs including Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), Federal Work Study, TRIO and GEAR UP will all be reduced by slightly more than two percent over the previous budget.

Canisius students, parents, faculty, staff and alumni recently joined in a national petition signing effort to support Pell and other federal student aid. Canisius affiliates accounted for more than 1,400 signatures, placing our school in the top ten nationally in support of federal student aid.

Submitted by:  Ken Kruly, director, government relations