This Program Improved College Graduation Rates. So Why Was It Abandoned?
Career College Central summary:
Summer school was boosting college graduation rates—but not anymore. By the time Leah Stone got her bachelor’s degree this spring from New Jersey’s Montclair State University, her four-year higher education had stretched to six years. It would have taken even longer had she not been able to stay in school during the summers. An unexpectedly popular experiment allowed Stone and other students to use federal Pell Grants to pay for summer classes.
But the program ended after the summer of 2011. And just as policymakers try to speed up the pace at which students get through college, the principal federal financial-aid program no longer covers courses taken in the summer. It’s a conundrum in which the government wants to increase the number of people with university and college degrees, higher-education analyst Sandy Baum said, while at the same time telling students that “If you take more [credits] during the summer, we’re not going to help you.”
Congress decided that the two-year experiment with making Pell grants available for summer classes was too expensive, and President Barack Obama agreed to eliminate it. That saved up to $8 billion per year, the U.S. Department of Education said at the time. Now lawmakers are considering bringing back the summer Pell grants in some form. But they’re also struggling to keep up with increases in tuition that have propelled the annual cost of Pell grants for the traditional academic year above $33 billion.
“There’s pretty bipartisan support for the Pell program overall,” said Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. But before expanding it again, Kline said, Congress needs to find ways to deal with “incredible increases” in tuition.
A group of Democratic senators led by Mazie Hirono of Hawaii has introduced a bill to restore summer Pell Grants. Among other options being discussed by the House education committee is a “Pell Well” of funds from which students could withdraw over the course of their educations, regardless of the time of year.
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