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The Associated Press August 3, 2011, 2:11PM ET

Debt ceiling cuts worry U of Minn. grad students

Billions of dollars in Pell Grant funding for undergraduate students was preserved in the law to raise the federal debt ceiling, but it was financed by curbs to student loan subsidies that helped graduate students, which has some students at the University of Minnesota concerned.

"Once again we're seeing graduate and professional education school pitted against undergraduate education," said Abou Amara, president of the University's Graduate and Professional Student Assembly.

Under the debt ceiling deal signed into law on Tuesday, government-subsidized loans for graduate and professional students across the nation will be eliminated in July 2012. Those students will begin paying interest on their loans while still in school, or let it accumulate.

Amara told The Minnesota Daily ( that the lack of subsidized loans could discourage students from going to graduate school. "It's creating a problem of access," Amara said.

Terrance Paape, vice president for student affairs at GAPSA, said preserving Pell Grants at the expensive of graduate education was a bad deal.

"Forcing graduate and professional students to bear the brunt of the government's mistakes in order to preserve funding does not make sense," he said.

While graduate students might not like the deal, it's good news for the thousands of undergraduate students in Minnesota who will continue to get Pell Grants.

The Pell Grant program had expected deep cuts but was given $17 billion to maintain its level of support for college students until 2013.

At the University of Minnesota, 19 percent of undergraduates received a Pell Grant in the 2009-10 academic year, according to the university's Office of Institutional Research. The average grant to university students was $3,747.

Tricia Grimes, a policy analyst with Minnesota's Office of Higher Education, said the grants are generally reserved for families that make $35,000 or less each year.

She said that during the 2010-11 academic year, 181,600 Minnesota students -- including those in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system -- were awarded a total of $106 million in Pell Grants.


Information from: The Minnesota Daily,

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