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Posted at 1:21 PM ET, 02/ 7/2011

Guest post: New ED rules get funds to needy students

By Daniel de Vise

Here is a guest post by Rich Williams, higher education advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and the Student PIRG's Higher Education Project.

"Sorry professor, bureaucracy ate my textbook. I can't get it for another three months."

To succeed in college, students need to do their homework, keep up with their reading and be ready for class when the semester starts. Having the class textbook is obviously important. rich_williams_.jpg

Outrageously, until now, many students have not been getting their financial aid funds in time to buy books at the start of the semester. Some schools have dragged their feet for weeks, even months, after the first day of class to get extra financial aid to students.

This has been crippling, especially for recipients of the Pell grant, the cornerstone need-based federal program providing scholarship aid to 9.2 million students a year. These students, who are the most needy, don't have enough funds without their financial aid to juggle around for expensive books, which are now comparable to 72 percent of tuition at community colleges.

It is no surprise that many students are left with tough choices while waiting for their aid, such as either buying textbooks or paying for car insurance, a doctor's visit or baby formula.

Strapped students are left without options and without textbooks.

Thankfully, a package of new U.S. PIRG-backed rules promoting program integrity from the Department of Education will take effect next school year and ensure that the most needy students can buy books in the first week of class.

These new rules will help students better budget for essential costs without distracting from their studies and ensure that bureaucracy no longer stands in the way of their education.

Follow Rich Williams on Twitter: @HigherEdPIRG

And, of course, follow College Inc. on Twitter.

By Daniel de Vise  | February 7, 2011; 1:21 PM ET
Categories:  Access, Aid, Finance, Public policy  | Tags:  DoE program integrity, Pell grants, Program Integrity rules, college aid, federal financial aid, student college aid  
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