State PIRGs' Higher Education Project
218 D Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 546-9707

Ivan Frishberg

Ellynne Bannon


To: Student Aid Activists
Fr: Ellynne Bannon, State PIRGs' Higher Education Advocate
Dt: August 15, 2002

*** Call your Members of Congress today and urge them to support student aid increases ***

In the next few weeks the new school year will commence-millions of college students will start classes, and receive the financial aid that makes it possible for them to attend college. Unfortunately, because of what may be the smallest increase in student aid funding in years, thousands of students could be left behind.

Due to rising costs, state budgets cuts and the failure of federal financial aid to keep pace, many students and their families struggle to finance a college education. Increasingly students are taking on high debt levels-the typical student now graduates with almost $17,000 in federal education loan debt-and working long hours-nearly half of all full-time students work 25 or more hours a week-to help pay for college. Students from low-income families struggle even more - the typical Pell Grant recipient graduates with almost $19,000 in loan debt.

Despite these problems, the FY 2003 budget may include the smallest increase in student aid in years, as Congress has made keeping a strict budget and K-12 funding top priorities.

Last month the Senate appropriations committee passed their FY 2003 spending bill, which only provided only a $100 increase for the Pell Grant maximum, raising it to $4,100, a $5.5 million increase for LEAP state grants, The bill left other key student aid programs such as the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG), Federal Work Study and Perkins loans capital funded at last year's levels.

The House may be forced to vote on the President's levels for student aid -- $4,000 Pell Grant maximum, level funding for the other programs, and the elimination of the LEAP state grant program.

The current funding proposals from President Bush and the Senate appropriators do not provide enough support for the millions of students who rely on federal student aid to help them pay for college. There are five good reasons to increase student aid this year:

1. Enrollment is up -- more needy students are prepared for college than ever before
2. Enrollment is up -- when the economy slumps, workers go back to college to retrain
3. Breadwinners have lost their jobs -- some students need additional, unanticipated assistance
4. State budgets are down -- states are cutting their student aid programs
5. It's the right thing to do! When the federal government invests in student aid, it invests in the nation's future.

For FY 2003, The State PIRGs' Higher Education Project, and the United States Student Association, as part of the Student Aid Alliance support the following funding levels:

  • The Pell Grant maximum should be increased by $500, to $4,500;
  • SEOG should be increased by $150 million, to $875 million;
  • LEAP state grants should be increased by $33 million, to $100 million;
  • Federal Work Study should be increased by $150 million, to $1.161 billion;
  • Perkins Loans should be increased by $40 million, to $140 million, and Perkins cancellations should be increased by $32 million, to $100 million; and;
  • TRIO programs should be increased by $200 million, to $1 billion.

Action: Call your Senators and Representatives today and urge them to support a $500 increase in the maximum Pell Grant, an increase in the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants by $150 million; an increase in the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership by $33 million; and increases to other key student aid programs.

Senate switchboard: (202) 224-3121
House switchboard: (202) 225-3121
You can also call your Senators and Members of Congress by using the student aid hotline: 1 (800) 574-4AID.

For more information on student aid programs visit: or