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Financial Aid


The good news about Pell Grants

The 2009 economic stimulus plan brings good news for those who have been struggling to find financial help during the tough economy. The new legislation provides billions of dollars for students and their families over the new two academic years in their higher education learning. Here are a few things to know about the stimulus plan and how it could affect you.


Increase in Pell Grant awards


The maximum Pell Grant award increased to $5,350 for the 2009–2010 school year and to $5,550 for 2010–2011 school year. Money set aside for the increased amount in Pell Grants will allow an additional 800,000 students to get Pell Grant funding. All said, there could be approximately 7 million Pell Grants available this year alone.


More Work–Study is available


The federal Work–Study program is getting an additional $200 million which will be enough to pay for an estimated 130,000 new work–study jobs, each providing an average of $1,500 a year in earnings. For now, there are no changes to the way the U.S. Education Department will allot work-study money to eligible colleges.


New Expenses that are Eligible


A new computer for schoolwork now qualifies as an expense for the tax-exempt 529 College Savings Plan.


Increased Tax Credit


Textbooks and other class materials will be included in the expenses eligible for the American Opportunity Tax Credit. This credit will act like a tax refund–even for those who don’t make enough money to pay taxes–to cover higher education expenses. Low–income individuals and families will now be able to claim up to 40% of the tax credit in the form of a tax refund..


Additional support for working students and families.


The stimulus bill also provides funding that goes beyond just college expenses–they also help families that have been hit hard by the recession. This support includes:

  • Increasing tax credits for families with children
  • Providing childcare services to an additional 300,000 children in low–income families
  • Paying 65% of the total cost of COBRA health insurance premiums for the first nine months of unemployment and offering people who didn’t sign up for COBRA when they got laid off a 60–day opportunity to sign up now
  • Ensuring that Section 8 Housing rental assistance stays fully available
  • Helping states offset local budget cuts in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education


With increased Pell Grants to tax refunds to job training, there is something for everyone in the new economic stimulus plan. The government wants to provide financial assistance for college and career training. Even if you are out of a job, can’t find a new job and are thinking about going back to school, now is the time to take advantage. Don’t forget, you can’t get a Pell Grant without filling out a FAFSA, so that is the first step to get the help that you deserve.


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