End of Year-Round Pell Grants Could Lead Many Nontraditional Students to Drop Out

The likely elimination of the year-round Pell Grant program has left thousands of students who had hoped to receive a second grant this year in limbo. Advocates worry that without the additional aid, many low-income, nontraditional students will make slower progress toward their degrees, or they could be forced to drop out of college.

Under the federal budget deal, students would no longer be able to take out a second Pell Grant to pay for classes starting July 1. Eliminating that option would save the federal government $8-billion through the remainder of the current fiscal year and in 2012, and would save about $49-billion over the next decade. Those savings would help close the Pell program’s $20-billion shortfall without cutting the maximum grant award, which is currently $5,550…

…Preserving the maximum Pell Grant award is still the No. 1 priority of most higher-education advocates, including Kai Drekmeier, president of InsideTrack, a company that advises students on admissions, finance, and academics. If it’s an either-or proposition, Mr. Drekmeier says, he would rather see Congress eliminate the year-round program than lower the maximum award.

But getting rid of the program is counterproductive to President Obama’s effort to boost the nation’s college-completion rates by 2020, he believes.

“To increase the number of college graduates in the U.S., we need to be focused on supporting adult students,” Mr. Drekmeier says. “When you add financial burdens, it can really make it insurmountable for some.”

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