college success

ED: Institutions can better support Pell students’ college success

A new federal analysis outlines strategies for higher-ed institutions to better support college access, success for low-income students

Institutions of higher education can do more to help Pell students reach their college goals and career aspirations, federal officials said recently.

In a report released this week, the U.S. Department of Education highlighted institutions’ efforts to promote higher-ed access and success among low-income students and also identified areas of much-needed improvement.

The report, Fulfilling the Promise, Serving the Need: Advancing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students, spotlights institutions with a strong record of success in ensuring that low-income students are not just attending college, but are completing their degrees.

The report highlights schools that excel in providing Pell-eligible students with access to college, as well as schools with strong performance on measures of college success for students eligible for Pell Grants and recognizes the important role many community colleges play in serving more than 40 percent of our nation’s undergraduates.

“For students from low- and moderate-income families, a college degree is the surest path to the middle class in our country. I applaud the colleges and universities that have taken measurable steps to open up this pathway and make it a successful one for students from all backgrounds. But we need these types of efforts to become the rule and not the exception,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.

Some colleges and universities have room to improve, the report notes.

Nearly three in four undergraduate students at forprofit, four-year institutions are federal grant recipients, but those students’ completion rates are far lower than those at either public or private nonprofit four-year colleges — less than 16 percent of Pell Grant recipients at for-profit, four-year colleges graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years, compared with half of those at public four-years and 55 percent at private nonprofit four-year institutions, the report notes.

And using institutions with available data, fewer than 50 public institutions enroll more than 40 percent of their student body as Pell recipients and also complete more than half of their Pell recipients, according to the report. Just over 100 private nonprofit institutions do–less than 10 percent of all such institutions.

The report also includes proposals to expand access, affordability, and success:
• Pell for Accelerated Completion would allow full-time students the opportunity to earn a third semester of Pell Grants in an academic year, enabling them to finish faster by taking additional courses year-round and better meeting the diverse needs of today’s students.
• On-Track Pell Bonus would create an incentive for students to stay on track or accelerate their progress towards a degree through an increase of $300 in the Pell Grant awards of students who take 15 credits per semester in an academic year. The bonus would encourage students to take the credits needed to finish an associate degree in two years (60 credits) or a bachelor’s degree in four years (120 credits).
• Rewarding colleges that successfully enroll and graduate students from all backgrounds.
• Making two years of high-quality community college, or two years at an HBCU or MSI, free for responsible students through America’s College Promise, letting millions of responsible students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree and the skills needed to succeed in the workforce at no cost.
• Ensure Pell Grants keep pace with rising costs by continuing to index the Pell Grant to inflation beyond 2017 with mandatory funding to protect and sustain its value into the future.
• Second Chance Pell Pilot Program tests new models to allow incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants and pursue postsecondary education with the goal of helping them get jobs, support their families, and turn their lives around.

The report, which focuses mostly on four-year colleges, uses data available in the College Scorecard and incorporates outside organizations’ findings and analyses.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Laura Ascione

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