Emerging reports credit year-round Pell Grants with increased summer enrollment

Early evidence suggests that Congress’s 2017 decision to restore year-round Pell Grants is “paying big dividends,” especially in areas where students rely disproportionately on federal aid, according to Inside Higher Ed. Year-round Pell Grant funding was cut as a cost-saving measure back in 2011, meaning that students enrolling in summer courses could use Pell funds only if they had not depleted all of their fall- and spring-semester grant aid. With last year’s policy change, students taking summer courses now can access an additional semester’s worth of grant aid.

While acknowledging that it’s still early in the summer, Inside Higher Ed says there’s “anecdotal evidence at least that the policy change is having a real impact” on community college campuses. Louisiana’s system of two-year institutions has seen a 10 percent increase in enrollment compared with this time last summer and reports a 17 percent increase in credit hours pursued.

“That just doesn’t happen without some type of change in policy or resources that spurs it,” says Louisiana Community and Technical College System President Monty Sullivan. Sullivan notes that by increasing access to summer courses, year-round Pell grants also helps compress students’ time-to-degree; he asserts that “the biggest deterrent to completion is time.”

Some areas especially reliant on federal aid seeing similar upticks

Emerging reports from areas less generous with state support suggest similar results. One Alabama community college, for instance, this year has seen a 58 percent jump in the number of students receiving Pell Grants in the summer, alongside a 73 percent increase in the total number of summer credit hours students are pursuing.

Kim Cook, executive director of the National College Access Network, says the restoration of year-round Pell Grants was a key step in helping students avoid enrollment gaps, given “the importance of being continuously enrolled and the impact that has on on-time completion.”

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