Senators Push Bill Allowing Pell for Early College

By Jesse O’Connell, Policy & Federal Relations Staff 

On Tuesday a pair of senators introduced legislation that would permit high school students to receive Pell Grant funds for completing college coursework. The Go to High School, Go to College Act of 2015 was introduced by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH), with a companion bill expected to be introduced in the House by Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-OH and Chris Gibson (R-NY).

This bipartisan effort aims to provide an incentive for high schools to grow or establish early college programs; such programs are often constrained by tuition costs that are prohibitive for students yet also difficult for schools to simply absorb. The intent is to allow Pell Grant funding to be accessed by students that earn transferable college credits, which would include core general education requirements, given that the credits are earned through an early college program offered by an accredited institution. According to a summary of the legislation, the bill will address concerns of any adverse impact on students by reimbursing early college programs for “the cost of tuition and fees on behalf of eligible students retroactively, based on college credits completed up to an associate degree or four semesters of college coursework.” 

What is not known at this time is what effect this will have on a student’s Pell Lifetime Eligibility Used; when that detail is clarified this article will be updated to reflect that information.

“Expanding the Pell Grant program so that students are able to earn meaningful credits for college while they are still in high school will increase college completion rates, reduce the time and cost of earning a degree, and give more talented, low-income students a fair shot at a college education,” said Sen. Warner in a press release issued to mark the bill’s introduction.

It is unlikely that this legislation will advance on its own, but could prove to be a marker for inclusion in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. For more information on that process, and to read about NASFAA’s efforts to provide recommendations and guidance to policymakers, please visit


Publication Date: 4/30/2015

Julie W | 5/4/2015 11:25:07 AM

Agreeing with Cora...every program I've seen where students attend college while in high school have the credits paid by the school district. If the concern is that all high school students cannot access the dual enrollment opportunity, the money should go to the districts to support the high school students.
Again this is an example of them not being fully aware of what is in the legislation they pass.

William Z | 5/4/2015 10:49:57 AM

There are a whole lot of issues that need to be clarified – Among them what would be used for PELL COA costs, the same need analyst, who is going to administer, track and monitor compliance, SAP issues and are they going to add more appropriations to the Pell Grant fund? Ummm!!

Julie W | 4/30/2015 2:52:32 PM

Just more proof that they have no idea what we do.

Denise D | 4/30/2015 2:45:42 PM

This should be a separate program addressed to the high schools through the school districts.

And would all students receive Pell for studying in these classes, or would they have to complete a FAFSA and have the amount based on their EFC? What would happen if a student didn't qualify for Pell--would the school district then bill the student for the college-level classes?

This is a bad idea.

I agree with Susan J that the K-12 system needs to be strengthened academically so that graduates are prepared well enough in the basics to complete a college degree in four years. I was appalled when my oldest nephew (he's 34 today!) was in his high school that was newly remodeled, and in a higher-rated school district than most. He had been assigned a chemistry class in the combined classroom/lab. But the students couldn't complete any experiments because the newly-upgraded lab had no water or gas for the Bunsen burners! Several of my nieces and nephews went to that school--again, this wasa fairly highly rated school district--but the high school didn't offer even basic calculus. The students were limited to 6 classes per semester (I could take up to 10 when I was in high school), which meant that one of my nieces had to give up her music (band) class to get an elective she wanted to take that might help her in her future endeavors, and her sister had to give up her foreign language class to take choir (as she was also the Drum Major--the leader--of the marching band, played 2 instruments in the symphony band, involved in music competitions, etc.) and because of the lack of the semester of foreign language, did not qualify for a new state scholarship that was announced right after her graduation. The high school in my own district wouldn't offer Physics because the principal said that they would not be able to fill a class--even though the lack of the additional year of science meant that students in that school would not qualify for a state-sponsored

Rachel J | 4/30/2015 11:57:21 AM

My concern is the limited Pell grant eligibility. Students potentially receive Pell Grant for programs of which are free anyway and then potentially lose out on Pell funding later in life when they really need it.

Cora M | 4/30/2015 9:44:12 AM

These students would also not be meeting the current guidelines of Ability to Benefit to be eligible for federal Pell Grant. I agree with Susan this would be an administrative nightmare. If they want to help all students to meet Gen Ed requirements, then they need to creat a new program, and leave Pell out of it to assist high school students that struggle in classes needed to be successful in college.

Cora M | 4/30/2015 9:34:32 AM

Why would you give Pell to students that are not paying for the college tuition costs. The Early College Programs I know of do not charge the students, because it is part of their high school courses. They are earning dual high school/college credits. Some programs allow students to earn a degree while in high school or college credits towards a degree. Students in Ohio that take post-secondary work under the PSEOB option while in high school are paid for by Senate Bill 150. I think the senators need to do more research before making a proposal.

Susan J | 4/30/2015 9:32:30 AM

The article states that these programs are constrained due to costs; are there studies which indicate this is the case? Are there examples of students who do not take advantage of receiving college credit in high school because they lack a Pell Grant? Personally, I feel if this were implemented, it would be an administrative nightmare, and there would not be a significant increase in students attending these courses. Too many students need better high school education prior to beginning college courses, and the money would be better spent improving the quality of high school courses. Rather than focusing on students who already know they will go to college, focus on students who could use the extra help in high school so they don't have to re-take basic math and reading courses in college.

James C | 4/30/2015 9:2:06 AM

Meeting gen ed requirements is not why students don't complete on-time. Students change majors and lose credits and 400 level courses are often only offered in one term and if students change their major and miss that offering they have to wait a year to take the course. This early Pell will do nothing to speed up completion rates.

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