JACKSONVILLE, Fla.. -- Congressional budget cuts have reached the college level. SMART and ACG grants are gone, and now there are changes to Pell grants.
"Students are saying, 'my financial aid package is smaller than last year, what do I do?'" said Anissa Agne, University of North Florida Director Student Financial Aid.
The Pell grant helped pay for UNF senior Kaylee Alwood's education, and any changes will impact her.
"I am getting ready to graduate, but I'm going to get my master's; it will affect me," said Alwood.
Kyle Losoya, another UNF senior, said his financial aid is made up of a number of scholarships, but the package has shrunk. He too will need a Pell grant for his graduate courses.
"During my freshman year, I took out a $3,500 loan which has kind of coasted me along at this point. I have used it here and there, and it has kind of dried up. I'm going to graduate school and will have to take out more loans," said Losoya.
Agne said the big change in the Pell grant program is that there will be no funding for summer semesters. "If they're attending summer school, they won't be eligible for an award in summer," she said.
Last summer, 1,900 UNF students received Pell grants, about $2.5 million. Agne said she expects that to be cut in half. She said the University is working on ways to fill the funding gap.
"One of our priorities is to try and reserve some grant funding at the institutional level to award (to) our students," she said.
Another change to the Pell grant program is students doing poorly academically would get one warning, then their benefits are cut off.
"Now it is one shot and the student's out; one warning and then it becomes a suspension if they're not making the academic progress," said Agne.
ON YOUR SIDE
Her department is pushing financial literacy, teaching students to be smart with their financial aid. Alwood, looking ahead, said she now knows what she has to do. "When you get your refund, save it so I can afford my summer classes," she said.
College students will learn more about the changes during the spring semester, which is when they usually learn if they will attend a course during the summer semester.
Two other federal grants also were cut for the 2011-2012 school year: the Academic Competitiveness Grant and the National Science and Math Access to Retain Talent grant were eliminated.
The SMART grant alone provided college students up to $4,000 per school year.
First Coast News