Oklahoma College Students At Risk Of Losing Financial Aid

Wednesday, March 9th 2011, 5:13 pm
By: News On 6

Laura Moss, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Administrators at Tulsa Community College are in Houston at the invitation of the Obama administration to discuss ways to get more students through college and into the work force.

But with federal student aid threatened, students may be forced into finding other options to pay for school.

National Pell Grants are under fire. If this funding is cut back, Green Country students at TCC could pay the price.

"We study together at the kitchen table, yeah I think so they know that it's very important," Shalan Velez said.

Shalan Velez is a mother of five and a full-time nursing student. For now, she says this is all she has time for.

"I take a lot of classes at once because I'm not trying to waste my time, I'm trying to hurry up and get done, get out and work and be a part of society and not using anything," she said.

Velez pays for the classes with the Pell Grant and other scholarships. She says she qualifies for the grant with a low income and a high GPA. A GPA she says she can afford to make because she's not worried about paying for school.

"Right now we're hoping that the government does not make any cuts, because Pell is a significant part of our financial aid for students and without that Pell grant a lot of students would not be able to attend college," Kathy Edwards, said.

More than 25 percent of TCC students are here on federal Pell Grants. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the $5.7 billion cut last month.

If it passes through the Senate and is adopted, students could be affected as early as this summer.

And for students like Velez, losing even part of the Pell Grant could mean losing time on educational goals.

"If I couldn't do that, I would be behind on my schedule," she said. "I've got a schedule. I know when I want things done; I don't want to be on the system forever. "

Velez and her family of six survive on food stamps and a little money she receives each month from the government. She said she wants to start making her own money as soon as possible to set a good example for her children.

"I've been in the office every week; 'Did I get the money yet? Can I plan to go to school?'" she said.

As of right now, the Pell Grants will only be reduced not eliminated. If adopted, students could lose up to $850 per year or their funding all together.