The interest rates of subsidized student loans remains at a low 3.4%, but that doesn't mean students won't have a harder time paying for college. Several low income students that received Pell Grants last year, might not for the 2012-2013 year. This is due to an attempt by Congress to curb the nation's debt. Southern University at Shreveport Co-Director of Financial Aide Tashika Davis says those changes were also made to encourage students to quickly finish their degrees. Student Deleena Leary believes it'll work for her.
"It's going to make me pursue my goals," she said. "It's going to give me that push that I would need to be motivated to move on from my Associate's to my Bachelor's."
Motivation to not stretch college years comes from new limits on Pell Grants. Starting July 1st, students can only receive the money for 12 semesters instead of 18. The family income of students eligible for the grants has been reduced from 32,000 yearly to 23,000. Davis says these changes will hurt several of her students.
"Now the only aide that they will qualify for is, basically, student loans, if they qualify for work study," she said.
She says around 80% of SUSLA students have student loan debt, and paying those loans back has gotten harder. The 6 month grace period after graduation, where the government pays subsidized loan interest, has been taken away until the 2014-2015 academic year. Davis says SUSLA is counseling students to not waste or use up semesters.
"We are encouraging students to stick to their academic plan, not to take any classes that are not needed in order for them to graduate," she said.
Leary, who just started Southern's nursing program, says these new changes won't hurt her. However, she worries about students already in the middle of their college careers. Students must also now have a diploma or GED before getting a Pell Grant. Students can no longer receive the maximum 10% of the grant. Graduate and professional students are no longer eligible for subsidized student loans.