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University Doesn’t Have Enough SMART Grants

Stony Brook University students may have a harder time affording their education in the 2011-2012 school year. In addition to reducing the maximum amount of a Pell Grant, the federal government will not be extending the Academic Competitiveness Grant, (ACG), and the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent, also known as the SMART Grant, starting this academic year.

 

The ACG and SMART grants were started in the 2006-2007 academic year under the Higher Education Act of 2005. First and second year students who had completed a rigorous high school education were offered the ACG. According to Student Aid on the Web, a financial aid source for students, a first year student could get a maximum of $750 for the first year and a second year student could receive a maximum of $1,300. In order to receive the grant for the second year, the student had to have at least a 3.0 G.P.A.

 

Third and fourth year students who majored in science, math, computer science, engineering or a foreign language were offered the SMART grant. Students could receive up to $4,000 for each of their third and fourth year as long as they maintained at least a 3.0 GPA.

 

In the 2007-2008 academic year, Stony Brook was the second highest-ranking university in New York receiving the SMART grant, with 278 awarded to Stony Brook students.

 

“As an institution very well-known in science and math, we have a lot of students receiving those grants,” said Matthew Whelan, assistant provost for admissions and financial aid.

 

According to Whelan, more than 2,000 Stony Brook students will lose roughly $3 million in ACG and SMART grants. Students have to be Pell Grant eligible to receive these grants.

 

“Students are losing money for college in the same areas that the government has decided they don’t have enough money for anymore, science and math,” Whelan said.

Although Whelan said Stony Brook will be impacted by these cuts, he also wanted it noted that this was not just happening to Stony Brook. It’s a “national issue.”

 

Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of fastweb.com and finaid.org, said the ACG and SMART grants were scheduled to end this year, but he is more concerned about the Pell Grant, which he said was “in peril.”

 

“The House passed legislation to cut the maximum grant by $845 (15 percent), and President [Barack] Obama has proposed eliminating the year-round Pell Grant program, which permits students in accelerated programs to get two Pell Grants in a year,” Kantrowitz wrote in an email. “So either way, Pell Grant funding will be cut. About nine million students receive Pell Grants. That is up by 45 percent over the last three years.”

 

Kantrowitz fears that cutting or reducing the Pell Grant could lead to students leaving universities.

 

“Cutting the Pell Grant, along with cuts in state grants and increases in public college tuition, will make college a lot less affordable, especially for low and moderate income students,” Kantrowitz wrote in an email. “This will cause some students to shift their enrollment to lower cost colleges, others to drop out or not enroll, and others to graduate with thousands of dollars of additional debt. More than a million students will be affected.”

 

Ashley Moreno, a freshman biology major, shares that fear. Moreno received both a Pell and ACG grant this year.

 

“One of the main reasons I came to Stony Brook was the economic package,” Moreno said. “If the government were to take the Pell Grant away, I’d probably be at a community college.”

 

Whelan said he worries for the future of students as well. “With a degree, students get employed,” Whelan said. “If a small Pell Grant would help students get a college degree then it’s an investment in the country’s future.”

 

For Brian Camarda, a freshman atmospheric science major, the Pell Grant is one of the reasons he is affording college. He also receives an ACG and had not heard that it would not be available next year. This fact left him frustrated.

 

“I think if they [the government] want the younger people of America to be successful, they shouldn’t keep cutting back,” Camarda said. “A lot of people are struggling to afford school right now for their own economic reasons.”

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