With the recent changes made to the pell grant eligibility rules, many low income students are left with basically two options. Dropout , or go deeper into debt by attempting to get more student loans. The changes to the pell grant were intended to save money in the budget by cutting education spending, and to eliminate the students who "abuse" the system. The main target being students who have spent six years attempting a bachelors or associates degree. However, with the way the law is setup is on percentage meaning that institutions or students that do not follow a "traditional" schedule will be cut off after just three years in some cases.
On a personal note, my wife is one of these affected students. She works full time and goes to school full time. When she first applied for the pell grant 3 years ago she was ensured to get through a 4 year bachelors program. Here we are 3 years later, and in the middle of a semester she is informed by the financial aid dept she needs to come up with $2000 to just finish the current classes she is in. This has put a great strain on our family. Now we are both going to have to work full time and hope that after paying for child care and bills there is enough left over to pay a fraction of the educational cost. If we were to save the money to cover the costs she would still have to take several months in between classes just to save enough for the next class. This will make her Aug 2013 graduation date be pushed far into 2014(if not beyond).
The situation for my wife is not an uncommon situation people are facing. There is a large number of students face similar circumstances. We have seen so much in the media about a growing need for qualified workers in the workforce. With these changes the media byline needs to be modified to "There is a growing need for middle to upper class qualified workers" The lower class has been effectively eliminated from the "qualified workers" category. So what message is our government sending us? Lower class shall remain lower class and barring a streak of extremely good luck, will never be able to crawl their way out. To most lower class families the middle and upper class is like an elite club that you can only be a member of if you have the right last name, win the lottery, or were lucky enough to get a "better than minimum wage" job.
Sorry for the rant, but I feel this was a very dangerous move on the part of the government. The number of dropouts and student loan defaults could potentially double if this is not amended. It represents a "huge" over site as to the problems this is going to cause and the damage it is going to do to the economy and the future workforce as a whole. A simple fix could be just adding a clause to the rule that allows students who are within a year from graduation to continue to receive funds until their reasonably anticipated graduation date, and if they do not complete their degree by that time then a cutoff of funds is reasonable. For students who already have a bachelors degree should be the ones with more strict cutoff schedules for funding a second bachelors or associates.