With a record number of students hoping to attend college next year — and fees higher than ever — finding a way to pay the bills will be tough for many. Congress and the Bush administration made common cause in 2007 to increase federal Pell Grants for students and reduce some student-loan interest rates. Nevertheless, critics say the increases won't go far enough. To help middle-class families, states increasingly offer merit-based grants for college aid. But with merit scholarships replacing need-based aid, low-income and minority students — who often don't have the grades for scholarships — are finding their college dreams harder to realize. Meanwhile, longtime concern that private lenders rake in excess profits from their high-interest student loans has reached new heights. Investigations of student lending are being conducted in several states, even as universities and lenders settle allegations of loan fraud with New York's attorney general.