Chicago, Ill. (April 17, 2013) – In support of efforts to help reform the federal Pell Grant program for low-income college students, Rasmussen College Vice Chairman J. Michael Locke, provided insights on the Rethinking Pell Grants report released by the College Board. Locke was asked to provide additional commentary on how current financial aid policies are impacting college students and the need for change.
“Pell Grants are at the cornerstone for many students to access higher education, both traditional and nontraditional,” said Locke. “The Pell program must remain sustainable as a funding source, as well as become a provider and supporter of access in order for it to be successful. This report outlines the important role that Pell Grants serve in higher education, and outlines some key changes that can be made in order to improve success metrics.”
The College Board, a trade group of colleges and universities, commissioned the report funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation, with the focus on redesigning the Pell Grant system and to utilize funding as effectively as possible. A group of 14 leaders in higher education and the financial industry authored the report, and outlined recommendations for, “strengthening the Pell Grant program and increasing the benefits it provides to both students and society as a whole.”
Nontraditional college students now make up almost half of Pell Grant recipients, and are becoming a large majority of the college population in the U.S. This is a significant change within the past few years as the economic downturn led to more adult students returning to college. These adult students require financial assistance similar to traditionally-classified college students entering post-secondary education right out of high school; however, adult students often need additional academic support and different financial aid programs from their younger counterparts, states Locke.
“Historically, financial aid policies have been written with the traditional student in mind,” said Locke. “This is one of the first times that an influential group in education policy has identified the significant shift in the composition of today’s college student. With this information, it becomes critical that the higher education system put in place resources to help these students become successful – from obtaining financial aid to academic support and counseling – so they improve their outcomes.”
According to Locke, today’s college student is more likely to be over the age of 30, a parent, financially independent, and with some type of career experience in their past. He states that because of this shift, policies such as the Pell Grant that have been around for over 40 years, need to be updated with new requirements and accessibility levels so students have a greater chance of graduating. Currently, success metrics for Pell Grant recipients are low with many students not graduating.
The report recommends several strategies for helping to improve success metrics and easier access to Pell funds, such as providing more monetary support for increased course loads. Students that attend college on a full-time rather than part-time status have a greater propensity to complete their degree, states Locke, and by providing additional funding for aggressive schedules will help increase degree completion rates. Other recommendations from the report include academic and career counseling for Pell students, eliminating the variability when it comes to access to funding, and removing funding if a student is not making academic progress.
“The College Board and study team did an exceptional job researching and analyzing the Pell Grant student, and have put together some strong recommendations on how we can take a system that has helped millions of individuals achieve their college education, do even more,” said Locke. “One of the key learns that I want to emphasize from the report’s findings is the recognition that adults over the age of 25 are quickly becoming the majority population when it comes to college attainment. In order for us to improve our educational system as a nation, we must adjust and revise policies to help support this new, nontraditional student.”
With an average student age of 27, Rasmussen College has become a leader in higher education through implementing operational and academic policies that best serves adult students. Through aggressive credit transfer policies, bachelor’s degree completion programs, and an integrated SUPPORT+ network of student support services – which is available to all students – 85 percent of Rasmussen College graduates are either employed in field or continuing their education.
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