Awarding financial aid to students earlier

Written by: Donald Heller

Primary Source: The Dean’s Blog

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Grants and scholarships are critical for helping many students afford college.  Data from the College Board show that the largest single grant program, the federal government’s Pell Grant program, awarded $33.7 billion to 9.2 million students in the 2013-14 academic year.  Without the support of Pell Grants, millions of students across the country would not be able to enroll in college.

A limitation of Pell Grants for traditional students who are graduating from high school and contemplating attending college, like many other financial aid programs, is that most students do not find out about their eligibility for the grants until late in their senior year in high school.  This is often too late for students to take the steps necessary to prepare themselves for college – including preparing academically, financially, and socially – to have an impact on their college going behavior.

To overcome this temporal limitation, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has introduced legislation that would allow the U.S. Department of Education to award Pell Grants to students while they are in middle school.  I worked with Senator Stabenow’s staff on crafting this legislation and recently wrote an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press explaining why the legislation is important for ensuring access to college for students from low-income families.  You can read the op-ed here.

– See more at: http://edwp.educ.msu.edu/dean/2015/awarding-financial-aid-to-students-earlier/#sthash.TvhJlbV3.dpuf

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Donald Heller
Donald E. Heller is Dean of the College of Education and a professor in the Department of Educational Administration at Michigan State University. Prior to his appointment in January, 2012, he was Director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education and professor of education and senior scientist at The Pennsylvania State University. He also has held a faculty appointment at the University of Michigan. His teaching and research is in the areas of educational economics, public policy, and finance, with a primary focus on issues of college access and choice for low-income and minority students. He has consulted on higher education policy issues with university systems and policymaking organizations in California, Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Washington, Washington DC, and West Virginia, and has testified in front of Congressional committees, state legislatures, and in federal court cases as an expert witness. Before his academic career, he spent a decade as an information technology manager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Donald Heller

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