Copyright 2019 by Wheelhouse: The Center for Community College Leadership and Research. All rights reserved.
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April 1, 2019

Why Do Some Students Fail to Receive Pell Grants?

Authors: Elizabeth Friedmann, Paco Martorell

Publisher: Wheelhouse: The Center for Community College Leadership and Research

IN PREVIOUS RESEARCH, we found that one in five California community college (CCC) students who are seemingly eligible for federal Pell Grant funds do not receive them.1 While the reasons students forgo these funds are not entirely understood, the consequences are quantifiable: Eligible CCC students pass up $130 million in financial aid in one semester alone. The amounts of forgone Pell Grants vary significantly by student characteristics and by college campus, suggesting that campus financial aid policies and practices may play an important role in whether or not students receive awards. Eligible students can receive as much as $6,095 in Pell funds each year. Because many low-income CCC students receive a state fee waiver that covers tuition, the Pell Grant can help them cover food, rent, transportation, and other expenses, thus allowing them to focus on school. To dive deeper into the phenomenon of forgone aid, we conducted a statewide survey of CCC campus financial aid directors. We sought to learn more about these administrators' perceptions of students' challenges in seeking aid, their general orientation as either conduits or gatekeepers of aid, and also about their institutions' policies and procedures, including methods of outreach to students who are flagged for a verification process that can pose significant challenges for students.