Pell grants important to rural communities
Monday, March 26, 2012
Posted by: Andrea Yoxall
A new study conducted among the community colleges of Kansas, with repercussions for most of rural America, shows that the federal Pell Grant awards received by college students throughout the U.S. are making impacts never before realized.
The study, "Powered By Pell: A Grassroots Perspective,” indicates that in Kansas
• Pell Grants put college opportunity and lifelong learning within reach of rural families that would otherwise lack access to college or workforce training.
• Access to community colleges, coupled with Pell Grants, raises upward mobility for full-time students, part-time students and jobless workers.
• In most colleges, Pell Grant funding to individual students more than doubled in 2008-2010.
• Women have surpassed men in total college enrollment and receipt of Pell Grants.
The study also concluded that, if the Kansas results are typical, half or more of the college credits being completed today in the U.S. are dependent on Pell Grant funds.
The study was led by Garden City Community College for the 2012 Community College National Legislative Summit and the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees. The study drew from data from 17 Kansas community colleges and focuses on the flow of federal student aid across the Kansas community college system over a cycle of three consecutive fall semesters.
The study is seen as significant because it is the first to track the flow of Pell Grants by gender across a statewide system of similar colleges, and because the 19-institution Kansas community college network is representative of rural America. Most of the 17 participating schools, including Seward County Community College/Area Technical School in Liberal, are officially recognized as rural serving colleges under the Carnegie Classification System of higher learning institutions.
It shows that over a two-year spread, overall enrollment and receipt of Pell Grant funds rose dramatically, with student counts jumping 11 percent, to a total of 77,820 individuals; and full-time equivalency enrollment climbing by 15 percent, to a total of 49,066 from the fall of 2008 to the fall of 2010.
SCCC/ATS Pell Grants jumped from 277 in fall 2008 to 465 in fall 2010. The amount of Pell Grant awards nearly doubled from $469,555 in 2008 to $981,687 in 2010.
During the same two-year period, Pell grant receipts grew by 75 percent at the 17 schools, with 8,862 new grant awards. Simultaneously, Pell Grant dollars allocated to the students at the Kansas institutions soared from approximately $20.5 million to about $40.4 million.
In parallel, the number of women receiving Pell Grants spiked upward by 59 percent during the period, and Mann said she believes a national study would shed light on the growth from a broader perspective.
Pell grant at SCCC/ATS for women, both part-time and full-time, outnumbered the men 179 to 98 in 2008. The women outnumbered the men 293 to 172 in 2010.
"If the Kansas results are typical,” said Linda Fund, executive director of the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees, "the fact that half or more of the college credits being completed today are dependent on Pell Grant funds is of great significance as we reassess the need and importance of the Pell Grant in making college accessible, particularly for rural college students and women.”
"On the front end, we’re putting in place measures to help more students access and afford higher education,” Dr. Martha Kanter, under secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, said to the Century Foundation's Task Force on Community Colleges in remarks she made Feb. 17 in New York.
"We’re providing more than $40 billion for Pell Grants over the next 10 years,” Kanter continued, "and the number of students relying on Pell to help them pay for college has increased by 50 percent since the president took office. In 2008, 6 million Pell-eligible students enrolled in college. Today, more than 9.4 million students with Pell Grants are matriculating. The president has proposed increasing the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,635 for the 2013-2014 academic year – a $905 increase since 2008. And, most of that investment was paid for by increasing efficiencies in our student loan program.”