Allotted grant money raised to help students

In May 2000, 1,500 UW-Eau Claire students were involved with a nationwide effort to obtain more federal funding for college student grants.

And somewhere along the legislative line, lawmakers must have taken note. Effective July 1, the maximum allotment for Pell Grants will increase by $450 from its current rate of $3,300, making the total allotment $3,750 a year, said Kathleen Sahlhoff, director of financial aid.

Several campaigns were conducted throughout the country to seek this increase. Students in Eau Claire participated in a postcard campaign conducted by the United States Student Association.

Students filled out postcards requesting more money be given in grants, and the cards were mailed to Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse and Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold.

Various other colleges around the state were able to collect large quantities of the postcards also, said Nate Otto, who served as director of the Intergovernmental Affairs Commission of Student Senate and was one of the leaders of the postcard drive on campus.

“It’s not every day they get response like that,” Otto said.

There are various amounts students eligible for Pell Grants can receive, Sahlhoff said. This increase will affect only those who receive the maximum allotment.

Sahlhoff said at the end of last year, 1,893 students at UW-Eau Claire had received Pell Grants. So far this year, 1,700 students have been awarded the grants and Sahlhoff said she expects the total to reach 1,900 by the end of the year.

“This money goes to our highest-need students who probably couldn’t go to college,” Sahlhoff said

In comparison, 3,700 need-based loans were given last year. Only 2,000 have been awarded this year, but Sahlhoff said students continue to apply throughout the spring semester.

That fits with a 10-year trend of more emphasis on loans by the federal government, Sahlhoff said, adding she is very pleased more money is being given toward loans.

“This is an appropriate, important step to keep up with loans,” she said.

Otto also was pleased to hear about the increase.

“It’s what we hoped for,” Otto said, adding that grants have not increased enough in the last 20 years.

Grants enable students to graduate with less debt and open a window of opportunity for students from low-income families to attend college, Otto said.

“The fact that the Pell Grant has increased only helps students,” he said.

Sahlhoff also stressed that students who receive Pell Grants don’t get a free ride. She said almost all recipients get the grant in conjunction with loans and work-study programs.