Bill could boost federal financial aid

The proposed federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill could give students additional help in paying for college, a university official said.

Increasing the annual limit on Pell Grants and Stafford loans will allow students to borrow less from the more expensive private student loan programs, said Mike Scott, director of scholarships and student financial aid.

The Jan. 15 stimulus package proposal would increase the maximum Pell Grant by $500, increase the limit on unsubsidized Stafford loans by $2,000 and provide $490 million to support college work-study programs, according to the press summary of the bill.

Senior financial aid advisor Kathryn Blackham said currently 847 students receive Pell Grants at TCU and 3,134 students receive funds from Stafford loans.

According to the U.S. Department of Education Web site, the Pell Grant is a need-based grant for low-income students while the Stafford loan is not a need-based loan.

Scott said the increase in the Stafford loan is greater than the increase in tuition for next year. Tuition will be raised from $26,900 to $28,250, he said.

“In a worst case scenario for a student, at least the increase in student loan money will cover the increase in tuition,” Scott said. “This will have an immediate impact on the cost for students next year.”

The increase in work-study funds is important because with the federal minimum wage slated to increase in July, additional funds will be needed to pay work-study students, Scott said. The money will help the university keep at least the same level of work-study students and probably enable hiring more, he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Web site, the federal minimum wage will increase to $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009.

The entire higher education component of the bill is a step in the right direction and is happening quickly enough to help students when they need it, Scott said.

“I think this is a great thing,” Scott said. “It’s a good effort to keep students in the educational system, and it’s probably something that will be done in time to actually make a difference.”

The proposed federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill:
The maximum Pell Grant increase:
The increase of the limit on unsubsidized Stafford loans:
million to support college work-study programs