Big boost for Pell scholarships would help students and the US economy

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Amy Bragg Carey, President of Friends University in Wichita, and Kathleen S. Jagger, President of Newman University in Wichita

Right now, Congress is assessing whether to update the current level of funding for the Pell Grants, which help needy students attend colleges and technical schools in Kansas and across the country.

One thing lawmakers should seriously consider is this: If you trace the purchasing power of Pell Grants over the years, the downline tells how grants – the foundation of federal financial aid programs – help students a lot. less than before. .

Where Pell Grants covered more than three-quarters of the cost of education in public four-year colleges in the 1970s, it is now around 30%. The rate of decline is similar at private colleges such as Wichita’s Friends and Newman Universities, which are fortunate enough to supplement grants with other sources of aid and serve students seeking the experience of a smaller school.

The stats add to that: it’s time to dramatically increase Pell Grants and restore the access and opportunities envisioned when Grants were created 50 years ago. Senators and officials in Washington have the opportunity – thanks to this fall’s budget process – to make education more affordable once again by seriously increasing Pell grants instead of just making the tiny adjustments they make most. years.

Higher Pell Grants could not only make community colleges free for many, but would also provide students with greater educational options by increasing the likelihood that they could attend Kansas private colleges as well as its Regents universities. One wonderful thing about Needs-Based Grants is the wide range of Americans they reach, as they help low-income students in all states, whether they come from a rural, urban, or suburban home. Nationally, nearly 60% of black students, almost half of Latino students, and 30% of white students receive the scholarships.

The need is demonstrated by the fact that over 80% of Pell money goes to students with family incomes of less than $ 40,000 per year, a level where college may be out of reach. Grants put money in the hands of students to pay for tuition, tuition, accommodation, books and other essentials and can be the deciding factor in whether they attend college or not.

About 4 in 10 students at Friends receive Pell Grants, while one in 3 at Newman. And the grants pay off generously in bachelor’s degrees: Students at the state’s private colleges, like Friends and Newman, graduate higher than those at other institutions.

A significant increase in Pell Grants from the current $ 6,495 would reduce reliance on loans. Students would also have a wider range of choices, whether that be getting an associate’s degree at a community college, training as an electrician or sheet metal worker at a vocational school, or pursuing a degree. in commerce or teaching at a four-year institution. It would also reduce the likelihood of them dropping out of school due to financial pressures.

Pell Grants have an impact on results that goes beyond dreams and career goals. Studies show that those with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of 40% more than people with only a high school diploma – a million dollars more over their lifetimes. On average, according to the US Census Bureau, a new college graduate pays $ 3,660 more in taxes each year. This additional tax revenue means that the money spent to dramatically increase the Pell Grants would be returned to government coffers relatively quickly.

This type of investment is particularly needed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has cost more than 20 million people their jobs and reduced university enrollments across the country. Significantly increasing the maximum amount of Pell grants would provide another avenue for preparing the workforce needed to return the economy to its full health. It would also achieve the goal some are looking for – “a free college” for students who really need it – without creating a new federal bureaucracy to manage it or placing the onus on states to do so.

It’s time to go back to the original intent and impact of the Pell program. As leaders of Friends and Newman Universities, we urge you – for the future of your families, neighbors, communities and countries – to reach out to your representatives and senators in Washington and ask them to take bold action and dramatically increase Pell grants.

Amy Bragg Carey is president of Friends University in Wichita. She co-wrote this with Kathleen S. Jagger, president of Newman University in Wichita.


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