City College students who qualified to receive Pell Grant awards this semester got more than they bargained for when an extra check was made out to them in addition to the two scheduled payouts during the semester, a direct effect of the passage of the College Cost Reduction Act.
Since its passage in September, the maximum Pell Grant award increased from $4,176 to $4,310. While grant money was scheduled to distribute twice during the semester, the first mail date on September 18, and the second on November 19, students who qualified for more grant money under the act’s provisions were awarded with a seperate check disbursed at the end of October.
Susana Gonzalez, the student services assistant in the Financial Aid Department, was working the phone lines as the students called in concerned about this mystery check.
“Students were worried because they thought it was their second disbursement,” Gonzalez said, “I ended up arguing with them over a $35 check.”
Gonzalez attributes the unawareness of the student body to the fact that the e-mail updates sent out to students sometimes get inadvertently put in spam boxes where students miss them.
City College’s website has failed to update their financial aid page which states that “Congress is currently considering legislation to repeal the tuition sensitivity regulation effective with the Fall 2007 semester. If passed, students will be eligible for the higher $4,310 Pell Grant.”
The Act also set out to reduce student loan interest rates, which will go into effect in the fall 2008 semester and gradually reduce 3.40% over the next seven years. Considering the rising demand of student loans at City College, this should come as a welcomed gesture from Congress.
According to Gregory Sanchez, the Director of the Financial Aid Department, in the 2006-07 school year City College loaned money to 889 students. So far in the 2007-08 school year, already 558 students have received loans directly from the college.
Sanchez also noted the fact that the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which is supposed to be revised every four years, is “about three or four years overdue.” The HEA deals with issues of minimizing tuition fee’s, promoting college education and improving teacher quality.
“Both bodies of Congress put forward legislation on it and its possible that this year we may have a reauthorization.” Sanchez said. “There is still a lot to be done.”