In the budget negotiations last year Pell Grants came up for cutting or reduction. Thanks to last minute efforts on the parts of several politicians, the program, which provides money to help low-income students attend college, was saved. Congress kept the maximum Pell award at $5,550.

But the negotiations still resulted in some restrictions on the program, and those restrictions are certainly going to be a problem for poor students. According to an article by Lauren Hertzler in The Temple News, the student-run newspaper of Temple University:

After months of debate, Congress voted in December to decrease the number of semesters one student may receive the grant, from 18 to 12, but keep the maximum Pell award amount at $5,550.

This plan is to be in effect on July 1, 2012. But it is retroactive, which can enormously affect students who are just a few semesters away from graduating, possibly still unaware that their planned grant for the upcoming year might be soon taken right out of their hands.

Furthermore, Congress also changed the eligibility criteria. Previously students would automatically receive the maximum $5,550 a year if they were from families with an annual household income below $30,000. Now only students from families with incomes below $23,000 a year will automatically qualify for the maximum award.

Some argued that changes to Pell were necessary because the program, which will cost some $34.4 billion this academic year, was becoming too expensive due to increased college enrollments and a higher number of students qualifying due to the economy.

That’s surely true, but these latest cuts are going to hurt some of the poorest students in America, arguably the people who could most benefit from a well-funded college education.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer