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State Higher Ed. Officials Discuss Change in Pell Grant Program

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 23 Aug 2013 09:09am | comments
Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by Tax Credits (Flickr)
College leaders across Mississippi are discussing recent changes in the way low income families receive help paying for college.
When Congress reduced the maximum amount a person can make to qualify for a Pell Grant from $32,000 to $23,000 annually,  it put an automatic burden on colleges and universities in Mississippi. That's what Dr. Steve Katsinas, Director of the University of Alabama Education Policy Center told education leaders in Jackson yesterday. 
"Because rural people tend to attend and graduate and stay at the colleges and universities they attend, so if Pell is the largest program to help adults access and succeed in higher education, it's the most important human resource development program for adults your state has," explains Katsinas.
Katsinas recently conducted a study that shows new  Pell Grant requirements have already eliminated nearly nine thousand potential students in Mississippi. Eric Clark, Executive Director of the state's Community College Board says a significant number of those reductions are in community college enrollment.
"In other words, we thing that 3,400 more students would be in Mississippi community colleges now, but couldn't afford to go based on the Pell Grant eligibility becoming tighter and then, it's a fact of life that having training and education beyond high school is just almost necessary now for a person to get a good paying job," says Clark.
The study shows that one-third of the nations Pell Grants go to students enrolled in rural colleges. Jesse Smith, President of Jones County Junior College says the changes will also effect the way schools do business.  
"About 60 percent of your tuition revenue comes from the federal government through the Pell Grant, if you are reducing that, then the only thing that's left to do for a college to make it is to raise their tuition.  You can't get more investment from the state, then your only source is to raise the price of the goods that you're selling, if we don't get a hold of this, it's going to get worse," says Smith.
Education leaders say they plan to ask Mississippi's congressional delegation to help return the Pell Grant program to its original requirements. 


Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by Tax Credits (Flickr)



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