Pell grant program to change in July

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 1, 2012

Local students planning to attend college using the federal Pell Grant program will see several changes beginning in July, officials recently announced.

This may have an impact on those who typically attend college solely using the program, especially since Alabama’s two-year colleges will implement a $2 per credit hour increase in tuition come fall.

In order to produce savings of more than $750 million in the 2013 fiscal year, the federal government has implemented several changes.

Changes include:

• Changing the EFC determination by decreasing the income threshold at which students receive an automatic zero ERC from $32,000 to $23,000.

• Denying eligibility for Pell Grants to those students who previously qualified by passing an “ability to benefit” test and instead restricting eligibility to those who have a high school diploma, GED or are homeschooled.

This means that after July 1, college students who have never enrolled in college courses and who do not have a standard high school diploma or GED will not be eligible for Pell Grants or direct loans.

Changes in the rules will not affect funding for currently enrolled students who have met ability to benefit requirements.

For those who need to take the GED, Renee LeMaire, public information officer and marketing director at LBWCC, said that the college offers adult education and GED preparation classes in Andalusia, Opp, Florala, Luverne and Greenville.

• Reduces the duration for which students are eligible for Pell Grants from a maximum of 18 full-time semesters to 12 semesters.

• Requires students to be eligible for 10 percent of the maximum grant to earn the minimum award. The threshold was previously 5 percent.

With these changes, community college students will now only be allowed to use a Pell Grant once each year.

State officials are concerned this change will mean some students will be unable to enroll in as many classes each year as they could previously.

LeMaire said some students may be eligible for other funding through Veterans Affairs, the Workforce Investment Act or the Trade Readjustment Act or federal work study.

“If students have questions about their funding, they should visit the financial aid office now on the campus they plan to attend so they can make plans for the fall 2012 term,” LeMaire said. “The priority date for applying for federal financial aid is June 1, which will allow adequate time for processing.”