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Study: Pell Grant Restrictions Hurt Mississippi Students

By Daniel Cherry | Published 08 Jan 2013 06:14pm | comments
Dr. Stephen Katsinas
Nearly three thousand Mississippi community college students lost their Pell Grants in Fall 2012. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports, a higher education researcher says that could put a college education out of reach for many students. 
 
Myesha Clark of Jackson wants to go to medical school, but first she's seeking a chemistry degree. She's taking her basics at Hinds Community College and says Pell Grants are her lifeline.
 
"I'm the first in my family to graduate high school. So let alone being able to afford college is very hard. I'm just happy to be here and the Pell Grant is the reason why I'm here."
 
This past Summer, Congress made cuts to the federal Pell Grant program.  Dr. Steve Katsinas is Director of the Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama. He recently conducted a study on the impact of Pell Grant cuts to Mississippi community colleges. He found thousands of students had registered for class, applied for financial aid, and instead of getting a check, got a bill.
 
"When it came time to go to the college to pick up the residual for the check, they got a bill for $1,800 or $1,900 for tuition, fees, books, and supplies rather than a hand up."
 
Pell Grants are federal funds to help low-income students afford higher education. Now to be eligible, a student's income must be even lower, a student must have a high school diploma or GED, and the number of semesters a student can receive Pell dropped to 12. Colleen Hartfield with Hinds Community College says that's bad news for low income Mississippians needing to go back to school for career retraining. 
 
"The requirements for work are continuously changing, people do have to retool and retrain. And most individuals are not going to have those resources available to them, those college funds available to them."
 
The community college study found, cuts that went into effect during the Fall 2012 semester led to decreased enrollment at 14 of Mississippi's 15 community colleges.
 

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Dr. Stephen Katsinas


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