Study: Pell Grant Use Surges at Kansas JUCOs

GARDEN CITY, Kan. – A study of Kansas community colleges shows the number of students receiving federal financial aid jumped dramatically as the nation struggled to recover from the recession.

Called “Powered By Pell: A Grassroots Perspective,” the study focuses on the flow of federal student aid across 17 of the state’s 19 community colleges. It found that from fall 2008 to fall 2010, the number of Pell Grants spiked by 75 percent, with 8,862 new grant awards. Simultaneously, Pell Grant dollars allocated to students at the Kansas institutions soared from approximately $20.5 million to about $40.4 million. The only two community colleges not to participate are in Pratt and Kansas City, Kan.

The study, which was released last month and updated this past week, was created by the University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center and Garden City Community College in southwest Kansas. Funding came from Garden City Community College and the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees. The results were incorporated into a broader national study from the University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center, “Pell Grants and the Lifting of Rural America’s Future.”

The study found nearly half of the college credits earned by Kansas community college students are funded, at least in part, by Pell Grants.

“If the Kansas results are typical,” said Linda Fund, executive director of the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees, in a news release, “the fact that half or more of the college credits being completed today are dependent on Pell Grant funds is of great significance as we reassess the need and importance of the Pell Grant in making college accessible, particularly for rural college students and women.”

Women outnumbered male Pell Grant recipients nearly 2 to 1. But over the two years studied, men made up ground. Their use of Pell Grants jumped 85 percent to 7,513, while women’s use increased 70 percent to 13,206.

Nationally, spending on Pell Grants has exploded, nearly doubling in just over two years to $34.8 billion, as more low-income students have enrolled in college during a weak economy. In 2008-2009, according to data collected by the College Board, 6.2 million students received Pell Grants averaging $2,945; in 2010-2011 9.1 million received grants averaging $3,828.