Battered by a worsening economy, college students are seeking federal financial aid in record numbers this year, leading Bush administration officials to warn Congress that the most important federal aid program, Pell Grants, may need up to $6 billion in additional taxpayer funds next year, reports the New York Times. Driving the increased applications for federal aid, in part, have been nontraditional students returning to school to improve their job skills during the economic downturn, said Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president for public affairs at the American Council on Education, which represents colleges and universities. Estimates by the Department of Education suggest that the new president will face an unusually burdensome financing shortfall–or the fallout that would accompany trimming the nation’s leading college aid program. "There are a lot of things going on–more people are applying for student aid, more people are going to college, more people who qualify for the aid are showing up at school," said Thomas P. Skelly, the Department of Education’s director of budget service, who wrote a memorandum detailing the problem to Congress. As of July 31, 800,000 more students had applied for grants than on that date last year, according to the memorandum, which called the increase one of the largest ever year to year…

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