State to study impact of changes to Pell Grant eligibility

The Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) has commissioned the University of Alabama Education Policy Center to conduct a study of the impact on Alabama of the new rules dealing with recent changes in Pell Grant eligibility.{} The study will provide data pertinent to Alabama's two- and four-year public institutions and the impact that the reduction in Pell funds will have on each school's student population.{} Pell Grants are financial aid awarded by the federal government that do not need to be paid back by the student and are given out based on financial need.{}

Changes include :

* Ability-to-Benefit students are those who have not received a high school diploma or GED but have demonstrated their capacity to benefit from college access through testing or course completion.{} These students were no longer eligible for student aid after July first.{}{}

* Maximum income for automatic zero EFC students has been reduced from $32,000 to $23,000.

*{} Maximum of 18 full-time semesters of Pell Grant awards reduced 12. However, for students who are less-than full-time, the cap is applied proportionally to their enrollment.

* Students receiving the minimum Pell Grant award of $555 no longer qualified to receive Pell as of July first.{} Currently, a student who is eligible for between five and 10 percent of the maximum ($5,550) will receive 10 percent ($555); a student who is eligible for less than five percent of the maximum will not receive an award.

* Conversion formula of credit hours for certificate programs

Gadsden State Community College says it has already experienced difficulties with{} the new conversion of credit hours policy--students have been left short on financial assistance.{}Also, the school{}reports it has lost potential{}career tech students{}because they did not have a GED.

ACHE expects to have the study findings by November first.