Students wanting to go to college in Colorado may have to come up with more of their own money for a number of reasons.
Congress is considering a reduction to the amount of money available through federal Pell Grants. Students who meet low-income thresholds are eligible to receive up to $5,550 in Pell money that does not need to be paid back.
House Republicans passed legislation that would have reduced the maximum Pell Grant $845 to a total of $4,705.
"I mean that's more than two months rent right there," said Metro State senior Sonia Lujan. "I'd probably have to get maybe a second job or something like that to make ends meet."
More than 10,000 of Metro State's 24,000 students receive Pell Grants. More than half of that get the maximum.
"I rely on it to pay rent and to buy groceries, so it's rather significant," said Metro State senior Mike Davis.
He told 7NEWS that a reduction in his grant money could extend his college career a couple of semesters.
"It would certainly require a change of priorities," said Davis. "In order to eat or live, I would probably have to take less classes and begin to work."
7NEWS asked both students why the federal government should be expected to continue contributing the same amount despite budget problems.
"It's not that I'm receiving money to just live, it's an investment," said Davis.
"I think higher education is important. I mean, it's what makes us thrive really as a country today. You can't get a career without some kind of higher education, so without this where would we be in 10 years?" said Lujan.
Metro State has delayed its grant awarding process for two weeks to see what Congress may decide. The school doesn't want to promise students a certain amount, just to let them know it will actually be less.
"Can Metro State make up the difference if Pells get cut?" asked 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger.
"No. Metro State can not make up the difference," said Metro State financial aid director Cindy Hejl. "It's possible that some universities will carefully decide if they can make up that funding."
According to the Colorado Department of Higher Education, 69,944 students received Pell Grants in 2009. The average amount was $2,803. In 2010, 91,062 students received Pell Grants. The average amount was $3,450.
Tuition increases will also affect students in Colorado this year.
Colleges and universities are now able to increase tuition by more than 9 percent if they seek permission from the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Each college's board of regents or trustees must approve the final tuition increases.
For 2011-12, Colorado colleges can seek tuition hikes up to the following amounts: Colorado State University - Fort Collins: 20 percent
Colorado State University - Pueblo: 18.7 percent
University of Colorado - Boulder: 9 percent
University of Colorado - Denver: 9 percent
University of Colorado - Colorado Springs: 9 percent
Metro State College of Denver: 12.5 percent
There could also be a change to the state aid for Colorado high school students who stay in state for college. The Colorado opportunity fund allows students who choose a public university to apply to have $1,860 reduced from their tuition. Those who attend the University of Denver, Regis University or Colorado Christian University can only apply for $930.
State lawmakers are considering allowing students who choose those private schools to get the same amount as those who choose public. Since the state wouldn't add any more money to the fund, public school students would see their stipend reduced to $1,854 and private school students would have theirs increased to $1,854.
"I think for $6 per student, the kids would understand the importance of supporting other kids that may be in their same position," said Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, one of the bill's sponsors.
"If a student chose to go to a private institution, why should they be getting more Colorado tax dollars?" asked Zelinger.
"Well you know, right now they get half of Colorado's tax dollars, so it's not breaking new ground. This is about supporting young people. This is not about taking money from the taxpayer," said Spence.
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