Hundreds of students to lose grant money

BY NINA EARNEST | MARCH 04, 2011 7:20 AM

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Some University of Iowa students may have to pay for more of their education after two federal grants expire later this year.

The Academic Competitiveness Grant and the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant — implemented under the Bush administration in 2006 — were designed to last only through 2011.

And while experts and financial-aid officials said they didn’t expect President Obama to renew the programs, the loss will hit some students hard.

“To see these programs also end, it’s going to be harmful to some students at the University of Iowa,” said Mark Warner, the director of UI Student Financial Aid.

The end of the two grants also coincides with a possible reduction in funding for the federal Pell Grant program , which supports 4,294 UI students.

A total of 111 juniors and 79 seniors receive the maximum $4,000 math and science grant — more than $700,000.

And UI students are receiving $900,000 in Academic Competitiveness Grants, helping 729 first-year and 430 second-year students.

“Not only is it going to affect students, it’s going to affect our neediest students,” said Beth Oakes, a senior associate director in the Financial Aid Office.

But Eric Bettinger, an economist at Stanford University, said losing the under-advertised National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant is not likely to dramatically shape students’ decision to attend or stay in school because most students, choose their majors their first two years of college. The grant, which focuses on students in math and science, is awarded only to upperclassmen.

The Financial Aid Office is not planning to provide supplemental funding, but staff will work with students to find other grants for which they are eligible.

The future of Pell Grants at the UI could be in question after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to significantly cut Pell Grant appropriations Feb. 14. The budget bill must pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate before any action is taken.

UI student Katie Roemerman, 28, said the Pell Grant award helped her attend to school as an older, nontraditional student.

“Something like the Pell Grant really helps,” she said. “I think it’s an incentive to help people go back to school.”

Regent Robert Downer said he suspected funding at all levels to contract, which could cause students to turn to more affordable community colleges.

“Or in some cases, I suspect they won’t be able to go at all,” he said.

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