Front-Loading of Pell Grants for First Two Years of College Gains Momentum

Front-Loading of Pell Grants for First Two Years of College Gains Momentum
By Charles Dervarics

House Republican leaders are reviving talk of “front-loading” Pell Grant assistance by providing higher levels of aid to students during their first two years of college.

The idea, which traditionally comes up during Higher Education Act reauthorization, may have a strong advocate in Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the subcommittee that will review HEA through 2004.
Since most students drop out during their first two years of college, front-loading of aid could prevent poor students from taking out loans while they still are trying to adjust to college.
Students could “concentrate on academics the first year and not worry about financing,” McKeon says.
Under questioning from McKeon, several higher education leaders endorsed the idea at a hearing before the House Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness.
“If you can reduce the burden at the front end, it can make a huge, huge difference,” says Dr. Richard Fonte, president of Austin Community College in Texas.
Greater levels of aid to freshmen and sophomores is “absolutely sound,” says Dr. Arnold Mitchem, president of the Council for Opportunity in Education. “More money on the front end makes a lot of sense.”
Mitchem, whose organization works on behalf of federal TRIO programs, also recommended goals for the upcoming reauthorization, including a reduction in the college enrollment gap between high school graduates from low-income families and those from more affluent families.

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