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President's Budget Calls for Raise in Pell Grants

If President Obama gets his way in next year's budget, there would be more support for low-income college students and better loan terms for all who borrow for their education.

The 2013 fiscal year budget from the administration, which is expected to be released later today, requests a new maximum Pell Grant level of $5,635, an increase of $85, according to published reports in Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Last year, the federal student-aid program survived threats of being cut and maintained the $5,550 individual funding level. There were, however, minor changes to eligibility this year aimed at trimming some of the cost of the increasingly popular program, which has grown from nearly $14 billion in 2007 to nearly $40 billion today.

A combination of more students attending college and greater family financial need linked to the down economy contributed to the explosion of the program that mostly helps students from families that make less than $30,000 a year.

Students would likely welcome the proposed budget's plan to keep the interest rate on subsidized Stafford Loans at 3.4 percent for another year. As of now, the rates are scheduled to double in July. In stops at college campuses in the past few weeks promoting their plan for higher education, Obama in Michigan and Vice President Biden at various venues have been met with audience applause when mention is made of reducing student-loan costs.

After experiencing cuts in recent years, funding for the TRIO and Gear-Up college-preparation programs would be maintained under the FY 2013 budget. The president would like to fund a new $30 million grant program to improve and expand teacher education programs at minority-serving institutions, according to the new budget.

Another tenet of the president's budget affecting higher education is a proposal to create an $8 billion fund to encourage community colleges and states to partner with businesses to train workers in high-growth and in-demand areas.

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