Remember that provision in the Higher Education Act that was supposed to help keep tuition down by requiring states to maintain their level of funding for higher education? Since state governments are required to balance their budgets each year, the act included a provision that allowed the Secretary of Education to waive this "Maintenance of Effort" requirement in the event of "a precipitous and unforeseen decline in the financial resources of a State or State educational agency."
Yesterday, the National Governors Assocation sent a letter to Margaret Spellings arguing that the current economic situation qualifies as such a circumstance. The letter cites the budgeting crisis over half the country currently faces, with a budget shortfall of more than $26 billion spread across 27 states and expected to grow. States are forced to make tough choices to balance their budgets, and the choice of cutting funding to higher education is certainly among these.
If the Maintenance of Effort requirement is not waived, states that fail to maintain required levels of higher education spending will lose out on some federal grant money designed to help low-income students prepare for and attend college. Either way, students struggling to pay for school may find themselves struggling more next year. So keep plugging away at those scholarship applications!