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College urges pols to keep Pell grants
Suffolk County Community College’s board of trustees adopted a resolution urging Congress to reject the House Budget Committee’s proposal to cut funding and eligibility for Pell grants in fiscal year 2013.
About 9,000 Suffolk County Community College students — 65 percent — in the 2011-12 school year relied on the federal grant program, college officials said.
“As a community college, we are especially mindful of how essential it is to provide residents with access to affordable higher education,” said Suffolk County Community president Shaun L. McKay. “We hope that our elected officials fully understand how these cuts may complicate efforts to educate more students.”
The college’s 10 trustees passed the resolution Aug. 16.
The Federal Pell Grant Program gives need-based grants primarily to low-income undergraduate students. Grant amounts depend on a student’s expected family contribution, the cost of attendance, the student’s enrollment status (full-time or part-time) and whether the student attends for a full academic year or less. Unlike student loans, students do not repay Pell grants. More than 8 million students in the United States use the grants to pay for college. The maximum student award is $5,550.
Recent cuts to the program included eliminating “year-round” Pell grants and reducing lifetime Pell grant eligibility from 18 to 12 semesters. The changes prevent some college students from enrolling in summer classes, Suffolk County Community College officials said.
The college trustees are against a proposal that would cap the grant program, disallow living expenses for students enrolled in entirely online courses and reduce the Income Protection Allowance, which is the amount of income a student or family can keep to cover minimal living expenses before being expected to contribute toward college costs.
“Clearly, many of Suffolk’s students are extremely dependent upon Pell grants, and we strongly encourage our Congressional leaders to reject these new proposals,” said Dafny Irizarry, chairwoman of the Suffolk County Community College board of trustees.
Above: Students make their way across the campus of Suffolk County Community College in Selden. (April 12, 2011)