Doubling the federal Pell Grant program, an investment in Kansas’ future
By MICHAEL SCHNEIDER
President of McPherson College
As we head into a post-pandemic economy, it’s time to send a strong reminder to Congress that an economic rebound can be sustained by increasing the maximum Pell Grant. #Double Pell – a national bipartisan movement to raise the per capita grant from its cap of $6,500 to $13,000 per year – would put a reasonably priced college education within reach of every American student and potentially eliminate their debt student.
When the Pell Grant program began in the 1970s, the grant could cover 75% of the cost of a four-year public institution, but today the maximum grant amount only covers 28% of the same costs, according to the National Association of Independent Colleges. and universities (NAICU).
According to a NAICU survey, more than 80% of Americans already support expanding the Pell Grant, including 77% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats. At McPherson College, one in three students is a Pell scholarship recipient. Many of these students are concerned about graduating on student loans, so they joined the McPherson College Student Debt Project, which is a college-funded program that combines financial literacy education, jobs, and mentorship to create a pathway for students. graduate debt free. The college matches 25 cents for every dollar students contribute to their education, allowing them to pay for their education in real time.
Nationally, Pell Grants help nearly 7 million low- and middle-income students attend and complete college each year. They are particularly critical for students of color, with nearly 60% of black students and about half of Native American, Alaska Native, and Hispanic students receiving a Pell scholarship each year.
But while we work to expand the Pell Grants, let’s also take full advantage of the current federal Pell Grant program.
Here’s a crazy stat: In 2021, more than 8,000 Pell-eligible high school students across Kansas left a staggering $35 million in aid on the table because they didn’t complete the free application for federal student aid. (FAFSA). The FAFSA is the first step in determining eligibility for the Pell Grant as well as all other federal financial aid.
Last year, 53% of Kansas high school graduates failed to submit the FAFSA form, ranking Kansas a dismal 32nd in the nation for FAFSA completion rate. Perhaps that’s why Kansas ranks 29th in college graduation rates, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. We need to do better to ensure high school graduates receive the financial aid that will provide them with the financial support they need to graduate from college.
Although students can complete the FAFSA at any time during the year to receive Pell grants, why delay it? Many Kansas colleges have April 1 financial aid deadlines, so I encourage students and families to follow two simple steps to complete their FAFSA:
First, Google “FAFSA” to find a quick link to apply. All you need is your 2020 tax return and a list of your current assets. However, if you don’t have either of these, you can estimate and submit, then make changes later. It takes less than an hour to complete the application.
Second, McPherson College – or any college, for that matter – will be happy to help you complete the form. Simply call any college financial aid office and the staff can walk you through the FAFSA process.
Financing education fuels economic development
Over the past 50 years, the Pell Grant has been second only to the GI Bill in terms of impact on educational opportunity and economic progress. Doubling Pell gives more dollars to students who need it most. With millions of jobs still unfilled in healthcare, technology and other knowledge-based sectors, we need to make higher education degrees more accessible. The future of our economy depends on maximizing the potential of every student.
I support government officials who hold higher education accountable, as the education sector has grown more complex over the years, adjusting to a less publicly funded market. However, let’s not forget the relationship between education and economic development. Too often, education and economic development are seen politically as a proposition for one or the other. Either we fund education or we fund economic development. It’s time we started doing a better job linking the two.
And we must remember that most colleges are not high-priced public universities or elite private colleges. Most of us in higher education are on a mission to serve students with the goal of placing them in the job market by offering bachelor’s degrees, affordable associate’s degrees, and bachelor’s degrees and certificates. useful. An investment in education brings more people to pay taxes in the labor market, more teachers in our classrooms, more health care workers in our clinics, more entrepreneurs who start businesses and more of executives to provide businesses with the leadership they need to thrive.
Join me in calling on the Kansas congressional delegation to invest in America’s future by increasing the Pell Grants. And, if you have a high school student in your household — or know one among your friends and family — reach out to them to make sure they complete their FAFSA. The future of our communities, our state and our country will be better for doing both.