Not many students recognize the name of the Pell Grant, and even fewer realize its significance.

The Pell Grant, unlike the ever-increasing supply of merit-based scholarships and grants awarded to prospective seekers of higher education, is a purely need-based grant dating back to 1972. A student applying for financial assistance provides the Office of Financial Aid with the necessary background information such as current yearly income, additional scholarships, parents’ income and then used to calculate the student’s Expected Family Contribution. For those that qualify, tuition, room and board minus the EFC equals the amount that the Financial Aid Office tries to cover using student loans, scholarships and grants. A foundation of many students’ financial aid packages is the Pell Grant, which ranges from $400 to $4000 depending on different levels of need.

UR is ranked sixth out of 40 among the top universities in the nation in the number of Pell Grants awarded to its student body with an eyebrow-raising 18.3 percent of its students on the receiving end. “It’s a good grant to have,” junior and recipient Faraz Kahn said. “No one likes to have bills after graduating.”

For the past five years, around 200 students per class qualify and receive a Pell Grant, with an average award of $2200 yearly. The total expenditure through the Pell Grant on the undergraduate class is $1.9 million dollars.

“It’s great to allow kids to go to college despite circumstances beyond their control,” freshman Zachary Sabbah said. Sabbah knows students who would not have been able to attend UR without the Pell.

As a large number of UR students recieve this grant, the Pell Grant is part of the university’s pledge to meet the financial needs of students who are accepted. Director of the Financial Aid Andrea Leithner admits, “If the program were to discontinued, then UR would be hard pressed to cover lost funds, especially considering the present economy.”

But the Pell Grant distinguishes itself in nature as well as in size. The trend, noted recently in the L.A. Times, has been an increase in solely merit-based scholarships, and that these scholarships are usually awarded to financially privileged students.

“Just because a student hasn’t had the opportunities to fully realize his or her potential before college, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve an equal start to compete at the next level,” junior and grant recipient Jack Collins said.

Senior recipient Chris Woodworth said, “People who receive need-based financial aid have already been accepted [here] so the fact that it’s not merit-based is really inconsequential.”

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