Federal funds increase for students

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By Julie Estrada

By Julie Estrada

Some relief is on the way for many college students and families worried about affordable higher education. Additional financial support will come from the largest increase in the Federal Pell Grant in about 30 years.

In an online videotaped statement, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings commented on the impact.

“College education is becoming a ‘must have,’ not a ‘nice to have.’ This financial support is essential to poor families,” she said.

The Pell Grant scholarship is disbursed to low and moderate-income students.

The College Cost Reduction and Access Act is the latest change to the Higher Education Act. President Bush signed the new law which congress passed Sept. 27. Earlier, Bush had threatened to veto the bill citing expense of federal programs.

The maximum Pell Grant will increase to $5,400 a year by 2012 compared to the current $4,310. The increases in the grant will be added as early as fiscal year 2008.

According to the Association for Career and Technical Education-the bill includes TEACH grants given to educators teaching high need subjects like math, science technology and engineering at low performing schools.

Military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan will also be allowed to defer student loan payments until they return home. Interest rates on federally backed student loans will be cut in half.

Riverside City College student Jorge Fernandez laments the expanded financial assistance comes a little too late for him.

“I will graduate this year,” he said.

Fernandez points out he’s thankful for the assistance he has received while at RCC.

“Financial aid provides opportunities for me,” he said.

As a Pell Grant recipient, Fernandez was better able to cover the cost of textbooks. That allowed him to focus on doing his best academically with less worries.

“It’s money you can count on instead of having to rely on your paycheck and be left wondering if that will be enough,” he said.

Fernandez plans for a better future after graduation and hopes to return the favor of such opportunity to the community.

Funding for the financial aid increase will come from a reduction in subsidies that the government provides to banks.

Eugenia Vincent, district dean of student financial services was not immediately available for comment on how individual students will directly benefit from the new law.

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