President Obama’s budget includes more money for Pell Grants, a simplified FAFSA

Caleb Wong

Starting next year, students could receive extra money in the form of a Pell Grant or answer fewer questions on their Free Application for Federal Aid.

President Barack Obama’s proposed fiscal 2017 budget sent to Congress includes an additional $300 in Pell Grants, another form of federal aid currently ranging from $200 to $5,500 for students taking 15 credit hours in a semester who qualify, as well an additional $1,915 in Pell Grant funds on average for those taking summer courses.

The budget also includes a call to simplify the FAFSA by reducing up to 30 “burdensome and unnecessarily complex student aid application questions.”

“Higher education is the clearest path to the middle class,” Obama wrote in a message to Congress. “By 2020, two-thirds of jobs will require some education beyond high school. For our students and for our economy, we must make a quality college education affordable for every American.”

While the proposed budget allocated $2 billion more than the previous fiscal year to fund increased Pell Grants, it did not state how much money it would take to simplify the FAFSA. 

Other higher education initiatives include funding tuition-free community college for “responsible” students and simplifying education tax credits.

“The President’s budget reflects the Administration’s broader efforts to expand opportunity and ensure every child can achieve his or her full potential,” said acting education secretary John B. King Jr. in a statement. “We have further to go to ensure that educational excellence is a reality for all students.”

Trina Manor, associate director of financial aid, said she welcomed the news of increased Pell Grant funding.

“That’s a good deal for the students,” Manor said. “I always want more funding for our students, more grants for the students.”

Manor said a simplified FAFSA would lead to more students applying for financial aid and would likely not hamper the financial aid office from properly allocating funds to students. She said other schools could require more information than a simplified FAFSA may provide to schools, possibly forcing them to resort to other tools to collect more detailed financial aid information.

“I think if [the FAFSA] were simplified, it would be OK. We would have enough information,” Manor said. “Some of that information, by and large, could be skipped. But there are some institutions — they want to know every little detail.”

Corporate communications junior Samantha Rubio, who receives Pell Grant funding, said more Pell Grant funding would be helpful because it doesn’t cover a large part of her tuition right now.

“The more hours you’re taking in school, the less time you have to work or get work-study or stuff like that, so I think that would be a great idea,” Rubio said. “That’s half a month’s rent.”

Rohit Mandalapu, student body vice president, said he hoped a simpler FAFSA would encourage more students to fill out the form and get more aid.

“As someone who has done FAFSA a few times before and has been very frustrated to the point of just not wanting to fill it out because of its complexity, I know that students would be much more at ease if there were an easier system to complete the application,” Mandalapu, a Plan II senior, said in an email.