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ERIC Number: EJ935375
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-May-9
Pages: N/A
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-1938-5978
Saving Pell Grants in an Era of Cost-Cutting
Gross, Karen
New England Journal of Higher Education, May 2011
In the context of the recent efforts to arrive at a federal budget, articles abound in the popular media and trade publications debating both the value of Pell Grants and their rising cost to the U.S. government. Both pros and cons of the debate hold value. Pell Grants are what enable many low-income families to send their children to college and, when more and more jobs require a minimum of a bachelor's degree, the value of these grants cannot be underestimated. While some eligible students still do not apply for these grants (due to the still-existing hurdles of the FAFSA), many more students have sought these grants than ever before (from 6.2 million recipients in award year 2008-2009 to an estimated 9.4 million in 2011-2012). And therein lies the rub. With increased utilization, up goes the price tag. It is estimated that the cost of the Pell program has more than doubled over the last five years. Solutions to this situation are not in short supply either. Apart from those advocating complete elimination of Pell Grant support, officials have suggested everything from grant reductions to changed eligibility requirements. Recently, a group of well-respected higher education experts proposed solutions in a requested letter to the College Board. While the author lauds some of the proffered solutions, there is one particular suggestion made by the group with which she strongly disagrees, namely that Pell Grants should be awarded only to students enrolled in at least 15 credit hours per semester. The current eligibility requirements permit students enrolled in 12 credits hours to be awarded a Pell Grant. The group's rationale for increasing the credit-hour requirements is that "full-time" enrollment at most colleges is 15 credits. So, if the Pell Grants to students enrolled "full-time" and graduating in four years (120 credit hours) are limited, both the number of enrolled students and the amount paid to each student over the course of his/her undergraduate education will be reduced. The authors are not wrong in their conclusion: Restricting eligibility in the manner described will lower the cost of Pell Grants. But the proffered approach suggested fails to address and hence acknowledge the academic and psychosocial context within which Pell Grants are awarded. In this article, the author objects to making full Pell Grants something that will, in practice, principally be available to the highest low-income performers at more elite institutions, ignoring the many low-income students enrolled at less elite institutions--for whom Pell Grants are the gateway to success.
New England Board of Higher Education. 45 Temple Place, Boston, MA 02111. Tel: 617-357-9620; Fax: 617-338-1577; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: Pell Grant Program