Starting this summer, as many as 10,000 low-income high school students could have access to Pell Grant funds to help them pay for dual enrollment college-credit courses at dozens of postsecondary institutions the Department of Education (ED) accepted to participate in an experimental program on Monday.
ED officials announced on Monday that it is inviting 44 postsecondary institutions – the majority of which are community colleges – in 23 states to participate in the program. The experiment would allow students taking dual enrollment college-credit courses to have access to about $20 million in Pell Grant funds set aside for the program. ED announced the program last October, as part of the administration’s larger goal to increase college access and affordability.
ED cites a body of research suggesting improved academic outcomes associated with dual enrollment programs, including college attendance, preparedness, persistence, GPA, and attainment of credential. Although many high school students – as many as 1.4 million in the 2010-11 school year – already take dual enrollment courses, many low-income students who could benefit most from getting a head start on college are boxed out because they cannot afford to pay for the courses.
The dual-enrollment Pell pilot seeks to lessen these barriers and expand opportunities for populations who are typically underrepresented in postsecondary education.
Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. noted during a call with reporters on Monday that in “all but a handful of states,” students and their parents bear some or all of the cost for dual enrollment courses.
“With this pilot program, we are one step closer to making college more affordable and accessible,” King said.
According to Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell, the 44 institutions invited to participate share some features. They have all committed to expand access to rigorous coursework; they will provide access to personalized academic advising or guidance counseling to help students transition from high school to college; the programs will align with local workforce needs; and the institutions will provide clear pathways for students to continue their studies or transfer the credits they earn to another institution.
ED also made clear to the institutions participating that students will not be responsible for the cost of any coursework after applying Pell Grants, public and institutional aid, and other sources of funding. That is to say, the Pell Grant funds are intended to supplement – not supplant – efforts already underway to make college more affordable, Mitchell said.
However, high school students who use Pell Grant funds in the dual enrollment programs will be running down their Pell eligibility, Mitchell said, as Pell Lifetime Eligibility Used (LEU) rules still apply. That makes it even more crucial that the dual enrollment programs will lead either directly to careers or will guarantee the students can transfer into four-year degree programs, he added.
That way, “rather than burning Pell dollars, these Pell dollars will accelerate students’ trajectory,” Mitchell said, and will help them finish college early or on-time, perhaps at a lower cost as well.
The 44 institutions invited to participate in the experimental program are listed below.
Publication Date: 5/17/2016