Penn State students can now use Pell Grants to finance their summer education, but some people are worried the program's funding could soon see major cuts.
Recent changes to legislation authorized by the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act now allow students who are eligible for the grant during the fall and spring semesters to use the grant during the summer semester as well, said Melissa Kunes, director of student aid at the Penn State Office of Student Aid.
To be eligible for grant use during the summer, students must be enrolled for six or more credits. The highest grant is an award of up to $2,675.
Kunes said students who qualified for grants for summer use were notified in the spring.
While the Pell Grant program has expanded at Penn State, some are worried that federal legislation may tighten the amount of funding available for the grant program.
Legislation currently moving through the U.S. House of Representatives may leave the Pell Grant program unfunded by billions of dollars, said Jake Stillwell, communications director for the United States Student Association.
There is a $4.95 billion shortfall for the grant program in the Supplemental Appropriation Act, he said. If passed as is, the program could face $17.7 billion cuts nationwide, he said.
Despite possible cuts, Kunes said money for the Pell Grant program will always be available.
"The Federal Pell Grant program is considered to be an entitlement program so funding for Pell Grants will always be available, although actual individual awards will be based on funds available," she said.
Despite the cuts for the program in current legislation, Kunes said the Office of Financial Aid hopes to see minimal increases to the grant program in future years.
University spokeswoman Annemarie Mountz said she did not have the numbers available of how many students are using the Pell Grants this summer. Mountz said she could not comment on the legislation until it passed.
The Supplemental Appropriations Act is expected to see a vote next week, Stillwell said.