Wednesday, May 17, 2017

FAMU’s graduation rates, enrollment stand to benefit from Pell Grant, SAG boosts

Current and future Rattler students stand to reap big benefits from the recent boost to the federal Pell Grant program and proposed bump in Florida Student Assistance Grants (SAG). The increased need-based aid is likely to help raise Florida A&M University’s enrollment and four-year/six-year graduation rates.

The FY’17 Omnibus Appropriations Bill restored year-round Pell Grants, which haven’t been available since 2011. Over the past six years, students have only been able to receive Pell Grants for two semesters per academic year, which led to a decline in Pell-eligible students taking summer courses. But now, more students will be able to take classes for three semesters each year and graduate more quickly.

A total of 64.7 percent of FAMU undergraduate students received a Pell Grant in Fall 2014, which was the highest of all the public universities in Florida.

“We are pleased by their commitment to funding year-round PELL for the remaining five months of this year,” said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., president & CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF). “Access to these additional resources will allow the 259,128 students, at TMCF member-schools, 75% of which receive Pell, to graduate within a shorter period of time and with less debt.”

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) also praised the increase in Pell Grant funds. It said the money will make it possible for “an estimated one million students [at historically black colleges and universities] to receive a third grant averaging $1,650 to attend summer school, in addition to grants for two other academic semesters.”

The UNCF added that “the maximum Pell Grant receives a scheduled inflationary increase of $105 to $5,920 for the 2017-18 academic year.”

Florida lawmakers also passed a 2017-2018 budget bill that, according to the News Service of Florida “includes a record funding boost of $121 million in the student-assistance grant program, which now serves some 133,000 students who receive an average annual award of $1,113.” That need-based program provides grants for the Fall and Spring (but not the Summer).

Gov. Rick Scott has not yet signed off on the budget. But if the increase in SAG funds remain, then that will be another source of additional financial aid that could help FAMU students graduate more quickly.

The expansions in the Pell Grant and SAG programs will also assist FAMU’s efforts to expand its enrollment. More future students will be able to afford the costs of their first year of college.

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