Students to see Pell Grant increase

Oswego State students who rely on Pell Grant money to help them pay for their education will soon see an increase in the amount of money they receive.

The amount a student receives from a Pell Grant is based off the amount of money a student’s family can contribute to their education. The amount will increase from $4,617 to $5,273, which should allow more middle-income families to receive grant money. The loan provision is part of President Obama’s Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act.

"We currently have 144 students that would be eligible for the Pell Grant in that gap," said Kathleen Pagano, Oswego State associate director of Financial Aid.

Pagano explained that another benefit to the new program would be the location of the student loan.

"The benefit to students is they will have one number to call, it will be much easier to manage their funds," Pagano said.

New York State Higher Education Services Corporation’s (HESC) Senior Vice President for Communications Kathy Crowder agreed that the change in location of the loans will help students.

"The terms do not change, but the banks will no longer be involved," Crowder said. "So when the student applies for a federal loan, the application is going to the federal government."

Previously, with banks as the middle-men, student loans could be sold to other banks, leading to confusion on students’ end and extra time spent tracing the loans.

This past year there was a significant shortfall in Pell Grant funding and students who were entitled to the grant did not receive the full amount for which they qualified. The increase in the grant funding will ensure that those students who are entitled will receive the maximum grant of $5,550. Many students will see an increase of more than $200 as they didn’t receive the amount they were entitled to in previous years.

Another important addition to the bill is that in 2013, the Pell Grant will start rising by an amount equal to the increase in the Consumer Price Index. By the end of the decade the maximum Pell Grant will be nearing $6,000.

"Over the next several years more than $36 billion additional will be available to fund student’s eligible for the Pell Grant," said Frank Ballmann, director of federal relations at HESC.

As for New York students, the coming of a new fixed-rate loan is finally here. New York has a new student loan program called NY HELPS; it has a fixed rate loan and is specifically targeting Tuition Assistant Program (TAP) eligible and middle income families. Students can know what their monthly rate is. This program sticks out amongst the usual variable rate loans.

"The most important thing is that these programs are about students and about helping people achieve their educational dreams," Ballmann said.