Community colleges see bump in summer enrollment after year-round Pell returns

Federal officials’ decision to reinstate year-round Pell Grants “may be helping to stem overall enrollment declines in the two-year sector,” reports Inside Higher Ed. Congress had eliminated summer Pell grant eligibility in 2012 due to budget concerns but reinstated it in early 2017 at the urging of community colleges.

Significant enrollment gains in summer 2018

Community colleges this past summer saw a considerable bump in the enrollment of Pell Grant recipients, according a national survey conducted by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). More than 80 percent of respondents—representing 109 individual colleges and four additional states for a total of 1.9 million students—reported a noticeable increase in the number of Pell Grant recipients during the 2018 summer term. Half of survey respondents saw increases of 15 percent or more.

The AACC cautions against assuming a causal link between the return of year-round Pell and enrollment changes, but the organization acknowledged that the numbers “improved in a robust way that might not have been anticipated absent the new year-round Pell Grant.”

“We are pleased that the survey documents what we have heard from campuses across the country, that the reinstated year-round Pell Grant has had a truly dramatic impact,” said David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at AACC. “In particular it appears to have helped students stay continuously enrolled, and accelerating time to degree has always been a prime reason to provide aid 12 months of the year.”

Education Dive notes that community colleges were not the only institutions to benefit from the revival of the year-round Pell Grant. Several California State University campuses, for instance, saw an increase in summer enrollment, including those in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Fresno, and San Diego.

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