For the third year in a row, the administration is proposing a smorgasbord of cuts in student aid. But many students have found this does not mean the end of the world. Each year some reductions are made, but not as many as the president asked. Often, imaginative colleges have been able to make up for lost federal funding.
But the slow squeeze increases anxiety, causes some students to switch to lower-cost schools and pushes others out of school entirely. Both federal grants and student loans are more restricted than they were three years ago, and loan interest rates have risen. Among the changes proposed this year:
* Under present law, students from families earning more than $30,000 must submit a financial statement when applying for 9 percent guaranteed student loans. If they do not meet a certain test of need, they are not allowed to borrow the maximum amount of money. Instead, their loans are scaled down. Upper-income families are cut out of the program altogether.
President Reagan proposes to extend the needs test to students from families earning $30,000 or less. Two groups would suffer the largest cuts: 1) students with earnings, who have become independent of their families--especially married students whose spouses work, and 2) students at lower-cost schools whose families earn close to $30,000. But many others also would feel the pinch.
The maximum loan is $2,500 a year for undergraduates and $5,000 for graduate students. But under the needs test--which compares your income with the cost of the school you attend--your loan might be as low as $1,000. Some under-$30,000 students who borrowed the maximum last year--especially independent students--might find that they would not qualify for a loan at all under the proposed new rules.
* In 1981, the administration imposed a 5 percent fee for granting student loans. This year it proposes to raise that fee to 10 percent for graduate students. You'd pay $500 for a $5,000 loan, leaving a net of $4,500 to spend on school.
* National Direct Student Loans are made to lower-income students at 5 percent interest. The president proposes to stop putting new money into this program. NDSLs would not vanish immediately. The colleges could take the money being repaid on older loans and use it to make new loans to needy students. But the funding would drop 25 percent in 1984 and even more in the years ahead.
* The administration has made an about face on one student-aid program: college work-study, which subsidizes on-campus and off-campus jobs for students. For the past two years, money for the program was held flat. Now the president proposes to increase the funding by 57 percent, to $850 million in 1984.
Whether a student can take advantage of this new money will depend on the job situation at his or her school and on how well the college manages its work-study program. Some schools cannot find enough jobs for students, in which case they have to return some of their work-study money to the government. Those funds then are reassigned to other schools where jobs are more plentiful.
* The rules may change in the student-grant programs. Fewer middle-income students will qualify for federal grants. Even students from families with low incomes may find their grants reduced if they attend low-cost schools. Low-income students at higher-cost schools, on the other hand, might get more.
* A proposed educational savings account would let families put away up to $1,000 a year for each child's education. The interest or dividends earned on that money would pass tax-free. Tax-wise parents will note that this idea adds nothing to what many families do already. You can accumulate quite a bit of money tax-free if the bank account is in the child's name and the child's income is low enough to escape taxation.
The savings account could save taxes, however, for families whose children have more than the usual amount of income, either from earnings or from other assets. It's of help to higher-income families pushed out of other student-aid programs. But at the moment, its future in Congress does not appear bright. families whose children have more than the usual amount of income, either from earnings or from other assets. It's of help to higher-income families pushed out of other student-aid programs. But at the moment, its future in Congress does not appear bright.