Pell Grants: 40 Years of Success for Hispanics?

By Simmons, Jeff | The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, January 21, 2013 | Go to article overview

Pell Grants: 40 Years of Success for Hispanics?


Simmons, Jeff, The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education


Educators from across the country gathered in midtown Manhattan last fall to discuss four decades of federal financial aid to low-income students, and debate whether the Pell Grant program has been a success or failure.

Since ils inception 40 years ago, the program - die most importimi source of federal aid for such students in the country - had helped finance the education of more than 60 million students, including 520,000 in 2011 alone.

To assess its impact, the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) devoted a porlion oí its 31st annual four-day convenlioi) lo an in-dcplh exploration of both Pell and broader affordability challenges facing the students of today.

The Pell Grant program has helped legions of students, and particularly Hispanic students, overcome financial obstacles blocking their entry into higher education. But concurrently, the program is facing new challenges, expectations and calls for reform.

"It is the foundation for all need-based financial aid. That was the central point of it from the beginning, and it continues to hold to that mission very well," said convention speaker Tom Mortenson, a higher education policy analyst with Postsecondary Education Opportunity and senior scholar. Pell Institute.

"Having said that, however, a number of people have been discussing possible changes to the Pell Grant program because the need for Pell Grants has grown much faster than resources."

In a report issued last year called Attaining the American Dream: Racial Difference in the affects of Pell Grants on Students' Persistence and Educational Outcomes, researchers stated that Hispanic American and AfricanAmerican stadents in middle- to high-income levels benefited from the program, as did low-income students.

However, the report also provided a candid assessment, indicating that issues related to the cost-effectiveness of the program might be secondary when compared to the mission and objectives of student financial aid assistance programs.

"Research conducted at the Charles H. Houston Center provides strong support to suggest that the Pell Grant program has been effective and continues to provide financial resources that lead to educational opportunities for African-American and Ialino families and students who may not be able to afford the costs associated with obtaining a college degree," said the report's author, Tamont ?. Flowers, Ph.D., distinguished professor of educational leadership and executive director of the Charles H. Houston Center for the Study of the Black Experience in Education.

"In terms of higher cducalion Mance policy issues, the Pell Grant program is one of the most important topics in light of its direct connection to supporting our nation's families and students," he said.

The report, fashioned to spotlight issues regarding policy reform and budget considerations for Pell, examined the role of Pell Grants on educational outcomes for African-American. Hispanic American and White American college students.

"I support an expansion of the Pell Grant program in a way that enables a larger number of African-American and Latino students to obtain a college degree, pursue their dreams, as well as contribute to an educated citizenry that expands America's technological, entrepreneurial and social achievements in ways that might enhance our economy and strengthen our communities," he said.

Designed to help low-income students pursue a college education. Pell Grant awards take into account whether a family can contribute financially toward a college education. Over the last four decades, there have been changes, but the aim has remained largely die same: to heighten (lie number of students who attend college by lowering the amount that students and families have to pay for housing, tuition and other associated costs.

More than 60 million students have received Pell Grants since their inception, 176,000 of them in the first year, a number that grew to 9-6 million students by 2010, when the program had about $30 billion in expenditures. …

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