Posted at 2:20 p.m., April 8, 2016

Pell Grant initiative could help students

Utilizing summer classes can help spread the wealth

A year-round Pell Grant could help students finish certificates and degrees quicker as well as provide financial assistance.

The year-round Pell Grant is a proposal that allows students to take summer courses with continued Pell Grant financial aid. This proposal is known as the Affordability for Constant and Continual Education to Enhance Student Success Act, or the All-Year ACCESS Act.

A Pell Grant is financial aid given to students who have higher financial need. The amount of money given is based off salary, tax information and other factors stated in the student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

New Pell Grant proposal

Right now, if a student attends full time in the fall and spring semesters, they would use 100 percent of their Pell. However, under the new proposal, students would be able to receive more than 100 percent of their Pell allocation in one year. Thus, students could even out their course load and allocate some of their Pell toward summer courses. Not only would students be receiving financial aid during the summer, but they could potentially finish their degree requirements in a shorter time with summer courses.

There was a year-round Pell program a few years ago.

“I believe it lasted two academic years,” Director of Scholarships and Financial Aid Julie Wilson said. “There were a lot of provisions and requirements that made it very difficult to administer. It also cost more than was anticipated and accelerated student Pell usage.”

Because of these concerns, the bill was discontinued. Wilson said, “The goal now is to bring it back without the extreme administrative burdens.” The bill was re-introduced in Congress in 2015 but has not yet been approved because of the same concerns.

More money per year

Students are eligible for 600 percent total, or the equivalent of six full-time years. When students attend summer courses and use Pell under this provision, they accelerate their use of Pell Lifetime Eligibility Used (LEU). This won’t be a problem as long as students accelerate through their certificate or degree. Otherwise, the Pell usage acceleration will potentially prevent students from having enough Pell funds to complete their certificates or degrees.

“Ideally, we like to see a student use no more than 200-300 percent of their Pell at LCCC so that when they transfer they have 300-400 percent Pell eligibility remaining to complete a degree,” Wilson says. “My concern is that year-round Pell will accelerate Pell usage while not actually accelerating certificate/degree completion.”

Wilson suggests in order to avoid the overuse of Pell LEU, “students should work closely with their advisors to take only those credits that are required for their current program of study and to enroll in only as many credits as they can successfully complete in a semester.”

Proposal yet to pass

Despite this proposal not yet being passed, students taking summer courses can still receive financial aid.

“Returning students who are making satisfactory academic progress, and have submitted a 2015-2016 FAFSA may be eligible for up to six credits of tuition and fees paid by LCCC,” Wilson said. “This summer aid is available to any eligible student, even if the student is not Pell eligible.”

Students who have not exhausted their annual Pell allocation are eligible for Pell aid in the summer. If a student enrolls half time during the fall and half time during spring, they will still have 50 percent of their Pell remaining for the summer and can enroll for up to 12 credits.

“To be eligible for summer aid, continuing students must complete and submit a summer aid application, which is available online April 12 through EaglesEye,” Wilson said. “We will begin awarding May 1 with most awards completed by May 23.”

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