Pell Grants Expand Access to College Courses for High Schoolers

Published may. 17, 2016

Paying for college just got easier, with the Obama Administration’s announcement of the 44 institutions chosen to participate in the Experimental Sites Initiative that will allow high school students to use federal Pell grants to pay for credit-bearing college courses. Currently, Pell grants—the most important source of federal financial aid for low-income students aspiring to a college education—are not available to high school students. This $20 million initiative will expand access to college courses for over 10,000 students at 44 colleges in 23 states. 

This initiative will help support proven approaches to enrolling more low-income students in early college and other dual enrollment programs. Jobs for the Future’s Early College Designs, and other models that combine college and high school in a rigorous and supportive environment, have proven for over 10 years to significantly increase low-income students’ chances of college success, providing an effective pathway to college completion.

We at JFF applaud the Department of Education for supporting this exciting innovation that will change the lives of thousands of students. This investment is based on strong evidence that early college course-taking improves college completion rates for low-income youth and can raise the return on federal investments in financial aid.

At a time when postsecondary education is critical to the economy, but only 9 percent of those born in the lowest family income quartile attain a Bachelor’s degree by age 25 (compared with 54 percent in the top quartile), we need to dramatically increase the numbers of low-income students gaining early exposure to college through dual enrollment.

There is pent-up demand for dual enrollment options across the country, and the Department of Education’s efforts represent a major federal investment in these essential programs.

Jobs for the Future and its partners work closely with education leaders and policymakers across the country to promote better transitions from high school to college, and JFF stands ready to work collaboratively with the Administration on this new initiative. Visit the Department of Education website for the announcement and a complete list of the sites.