CINCINNATI - Chris Hamm knows his ticket to success is an accounting degree that he’s currently pursuing from the University of Cincinnati.
However, his future wasn’t as clear cut Monday after learning there could be cuts coming in the Federal Pell Grant Program.
President Obama suggested trimming $100 billion in Pell Grants and other educational expenses in the next decade to reduce the federal budget.
Hamm, from Avondale, gets roughly 25 percent of his college money from the grants.
“It’s a big chunk of my tuition,” he said. “I don’t think I’d be able to afford school if the Pell Grant is cut.”
Around 85 percent of UC students get some sort of financial aid, according to Caroline Miller, UC’s Sr. Associate Vice-President for Enrollment Management and Associate Provost. That includes $350 million in federal dollars and $35 million in institutional funding.
“Pell Grants are the lifeline to our most needy students,” she said. “The basic cut line is that roughly a family of four making about $40,000 would be eligible.
Miller said any federal cuts will quickly trickle down to students.
“The three options they will be faced with are taking out more loans, which causes a downstream problem, working too much, which probably causes a balancing act problem and stopping out until they can garner the resources to continue their education,” she said.
Ohio’s struggles with an $8 billion deficit in the budget for the next two years will pose additional challenges for UC, according to spokesperson Greg Hand.
Hand said there will be cuts, but nobody knows the amount. So, the University is planning ahead.
“We have asked every University department to prepare a budget plan for Fiscal 2012 showing a 20 percent reduction in funding,” he said.
That could mean students will have to pay more to attend UC.
“It’s almost certain that tuition is going to go up,” Hand said.
UC Student Body President Drew Smith said he and colleagues from other state schools have organized a letter-writing campaign to lobby Representatives, Senators and the Governor in Columbus.
“We have over 3,000 signatures on letters so far that we’re going to be delivering to the Governor’s office in a few weeks just stating that we stand for higher education,” Smith said. “It’s important to the future of Ohio. It’s important to the students.
Hamm is studying his options right now – planning for the worst and hoping for the best.
“I may try to find other loans. Ask my parents to help me co-sign a loan. I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe I’ll have to take a year off.”
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