The Pell Grant is the largest source of need-based aid available to low-income Americans. Over the summer, Congress expanded use of the program to allow eligible students to use the grants during the summer term. It’s being referred to as “Summer Pell” or “Year-round Pell.” Here is a brief overview of how it affects Florida students.
Why is Summer Pell important?
Until recently, Pell recipients faced a major challenge: they could not receive Pell Grant money over the summer. This was because students could only use their award for two full-time semesters out of every school year. If students used their Pell Grant to cover costs for the fall and spring semester, they would have to rely on loans, other grants, or scholarships to cover summer costs.
In the 2015-2016 school year alone, 536,909 Florida students received almost $1.94 billion in Pell Grants. This money is a way for students to fund their undergraduate or technical education that, unlike loans, does not require repayment. As a proportion of undergraduate enrollment, about 40% of Florida students receive a Pell Grant, which is 4th highest among all states.
This isn’t the first time we’ve have had Summer Pell
This two-semester limit on Pell Grant recipients did not always exist. In 2008, Congress voted to expand federal Pell Grants to cover summer semesters. Unfortunately, the program ended just three years later due to funding shortages.
But now the program is back. In June, the U.S. Department of Education announced that year-long Pell would again be available. The new rule allows to students to receive up to 150% of their maximum yearly award to help cover the summer semester. To qualify for Pell funds in the summer, students must enroll at least half time.
Summer Pell encourages enrollment and faster degree completion
Despite Summer Pell’s short stint, researchers were still able to investigate its impact on students. For example, the Community College Research Center evaluated the impact of additional Pell dollars on enrollment and completion. They found that for every additional $1,000 per student of Pell funding available, there was a 27% increase in the likelihood of summer enrollment. Additionally, the extra funding raised the likelihood of completing an associate degree by 2.2%.
These findings will hopefully translate to success in Florida. Take Nathanial Diaz, a Valencia College student interviewed by the Orlando Sentinel. This summer, Nathaniel had to work 40 hours a week at Chick-fil-a to afford college. Because of this, he was only able to take one course. “If I had the Pell Grant now,” Nathaniel told the Sentinel, “I could finish this semester.”
For eligible students like Nathaniel, the summer Pell Grant can provide up to $2,960 in funding, in addition to the maximum award of $5,920 currently available. The summer grants should allow students across the state take more courses and finish their degrees faster.