The administration is continuing to cut back on Pell Grants, the student-aid program for college and technical school students. One round of cutbacks is now close to approval for the 1982-83 school year. More reductions may flow from the President's 1983 budget proposals next month.
Here's what's happened so far:
1. Low-and middle-income parents will be expected to contribute more to their children's education than they did last year, which means that their Pell Grants may be a little smaller.
Last year, parents contributed what the Education Department determined to be 10.5 percent of their "disposable income." This year, they will have to contribute 11 percent of their first $5,000, rising to 25 percent of any disposable income over $15,000. So middle-income parents will pay proportionately more.
2. Congress originally put the maximum Pell Grant at $2,100 for the 1982-83 school year, up from $1,750 paid last year. After some negotiations with the administration, the maximum authorized grant for low-income students was pegged at only $1,800, scaling down to a minimum of $200 for eligible middle-income students.
But the lower limits still exceed the amount of money that the president wants to spend on Pell Grants this year. The Education secretary may, by law, reduce student grants--and has warned Congress that reductions will probably be forthcoming. The maximum might drop to about $1,715, and the minimum to $50.
3. If a student receives education benefits from the Veterans Administration or from Social Security, his or her Pell Grant may be reduced. The Education Department expects substantial budget savings from this provision. Students attending low-cost schools may find that their VA or Social Security benefits make them ineligible for Pell Grants.
4. In deciding whether a student qualifies for government aid, the Education Department looks at the size of the parents' assets as well as their incomes. Parents are expected to contribute a certain amount of their assets toward college costs. But they're allowed to hold some of those assets in reserve.
The new rules raise the amount of assets that a parent may keep in reserve without reducing the size of his Pell Grant. But all parents are not being treated alike. The rules favor farmers, small business owners and homeowners, who can keep more in reserve than employes and renters. (The discrimination in favor of homeowners and against renters, however, is not nearly as great as was originally proposed.)
There is no way to predict how the above changes will affect the size of any individual's Pell Grant. The new rules on asset protection may partly offset the larger contribution expected out of parental income.
In view of the fact that the government is trying to save money on this program, you can assume that you will wind up paying more. But you'll have to apply for a Pell Grant and go through the needs-analysis process to find out exactly how much more.
5. Things are changing for independent students (defined as students not supported by their parents). No changes will be made for the 1982-83 school year, because the Pell Grant application forms were printed before the final rules came out. But the present plan for 1983-84 is this:
Married independent students with children might be treated a little more liberally than they are now (unless of course, the rules change again, which could very well happen). Married, independent students without children will receive smaller Pell Grants.
Robert Leider, author of the student-aid guide "Don't Miss Out," told my associate, Virginia Wilson, that many state-aid programs are also being cut, especially in the money-short industrial states. And there are more cuts yet to come.