Additional $790 Million Pell Grant Funding Available to Eligible College Students
By Lisa Iwaki, USCM Intern
July 24, 2006
Mayors have a new tool in their quest to find ways for students to maximize their education potential and increase their opportunities in our global economy with the recent announcement of $790 million in new Academic Competitiveness (AC) and National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) grants.
An estimated 1.9 million students are potentially eligible for these new grant awards just announced by the U.S Department of Education. The grants provide additional funds of up to $750 during their freshman year and up to $1,300 during their sophomore year for those students who completed a rigorous course of study in high school and are in addition to Pell Grant funds students are already receiving. Over the next five years there will be an additional $4.5 billion available to these Pell eligible students.
The primary concern for the grant program is that the funds have just now become available during the summer months for the upcoming fall college year, 2006-2007 without much publicity and after the end of the 2005-2006 school year. Students must take the initiative to determine their own eligibility and apply for the increased funding in order to take advantage of the opportunity. It will not occur automatically. More information on grant eligibility and the application process can be found at www.federalstudentaid.ed.gov or by calling 1-800-433-3243. A letter is also being sent to first and second year students by the Office of Federal Student Aid.
Mayors are urged to publicize this opportunity to make college more affordable and get the word out to students in their cities about the increased Pell grant funding. A fact sheet on the two programs has been posted on the U.S. Conference of Mayors website at usmayors.org.
“Mayors have a shared vision to strengthen the link between higher education and the workforce and to ensure that high schools provide a challenging curriculum to facilitate all students’ transition into the workplace. This grant announcement provides an opportunity for mayors across the country to reward those students who have pursued a rigorous course of study both in high school and college by getting the word out about the increased financial assistance. Through these grants, we can encourage students to continue their education at a two or four year college and ensure their role as integral parts of every city’s future,” said Conference Executive Director Tom Cochran.
AC Grants are geared towards first- and second-year college students who are Pell grant eligible and have completed a rigorous high school curriculum as defined by their state. First year college students may receive up to an additional $750, and sophomores (second year students) can receive up to an additional $1,300 in student aid. The maximum basic Pell grant is $4,050.
Third- and fourth-year college students majoring in science, technology, mathematics, or critical foreign languages are eligible to receive SMART Grants up to $4,000 if they are already receiving a Pell grant. Students who receive AC or SMART Grants must be enrolled full-time in college in either a two- or four-year degree program and maintain a 3.0 grade-point average during college.
For complete information on the grant program access the U.S. Department of Education’s financial website at: http://www.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/competitiveness/ac-smart2.html or call 1-800-433-3243.