WASHINGTON — Students who wanted to attend college, but didn’t have a high school diploma or GED, used to be able to get federal grants and loans through a back door: either take a basic skills test to prove their “ability to benefit” from a college education, or successfully complete six credits.
This year’s federal budget, in an effort to trim spending on Pell Grants, shut off both routes. As of July 1, newly enrolled students are required to have a high school diploma or GED in order to receive federal financial aid. College administrators say they worry the new policy will shut out older students seeking training to find a new job, immigrants, and students in states where money for basic adult education has been cut in budget crises.
Either those students will turn to riskier private loans, they say, or — more likely — they’ll just give up on pursuing higher education.
“This change is just very difficult to swallow,” said David Baime, vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges. “It runs counter to the missions of many of our colleges.”