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Financial Aid

These are unsettling times for federal student aid. The year that just ended presented students and college administrators with a broad range of challenges, as Congress not only failed for a third straight year to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), but voted for unprecedented cuts in funding of $12.7 billion in the federal Title IV aid programs. Final passage of the legislation reducing aid funding was delayed--probably until this month--due to a procedural issue, offering the slim hope that rising public opposition may lead to smaller, though still damaging, cuts.

Although not everyone knows it, there are two Super Sundays each January. Super Bowl Sunday grabs millions of viewers, but College Goal Sunday is gaining ground. While the Super Bowl results in great fame for the winning team, something more important is being achieved on College Goal Sunday for students--a future with a college degree.

In recent years, college and university financial aid administrators and admissions personnel have witnessed the growth of an alarming trend--financial aid "consultants" who charge families for services offered for free by on-campus aid administrators. These consultants often exaggerate the complexities of the financial aid process or make promises for things they have no ability to deliver, such as guaranteed scholarship money to students. Staff at IHEs should question such activity whenever they learn of it.

As Congress continues to work toward completing the renewal, or "reauthorization," of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), as amended in recent years, discussion has centered primarily on the nation's flagship postsecondary grant program--the Federal Pell Grant program--and the student loan programs, which together deliver more than $61 billion in assistance each year to America's college students.

Beware: reauthorization approaches. Institutions have heard this repeatedly for the past couple of years, but major systemic changes have yet to take place in higher education. What exactly is the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act? When will it really take place? And what will this mean for the financial aid programs that help your institution's students attend college?

Postsecondary students and their schools were dealt a sound blow recently when lawmakers failed to prevent a change in the way financial need is calculated. Experts believe this change will result in approximately 80,000 to 90,000 current Pell Grant recipients losing their awards entirely and more than a million Pell recipients experiencing reduced eligibility.