Katherine Friedman

Staff Writer

University of California President Mark G. Yudof and UC Student Association President Claudia Magaña have joined forces to combat potential cuts to the Federal Pell Grant Program.

In a letter to the California Congressional Delegation earlier this month, the pair called for the Pell Grant’s preservation amid a series of threatened cuts, including a $5.7 billion slash to the program in the House Republicans’ proposed federal 2011-2012 budget. UC students received $286 million in Pell Grant awards last year alone, and roughly 40 percent of all UC undergraduates received Pell Grants last fall.

According to Nancy Coolidge, UC’s systemwide coordinator of student financial support, Pell Grants are imperative to the academic success of low-income students because they go to students with annual family incomes of $40,000 or less.

“It is free money that goes to the lowest income students who are undergraduates,” Coolidge said. “It’s critical money for people who don’t have enough of their own resources.”

UCSB Financial Aid Director Mike Miller said the Pell Grant program’s maximum award amount could be reduced from $5,550 to $4,705, but the program also runs the risk of being eliminated entirely.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” Miller said. “All the information we’re receiving from the Office of the President … is very uncertain at this point. Right now we’re just crossing our fingers.”

Miller said the number of students receiving Pell Grants has gone up drastically in recent years. Currently, 6,926 UCSB students are Pell Grant recipients.

“UCSB has seen a mass increase in Pell Grant recipients,” Miller said. “It’s a big chunk of money. It would be a massive cut to a very vital program.”

Miller said Yudof and Magaña’s letter was an inspiring move on the part of the UC.

“The letter … was well-written and captured the big picture and the real impact that the University of California students would feel if these cuts did take place,” Miller said. “There’s definitely a lot of advocacy going on.”