Fewer students eligible for Pell Grants - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Fewer students eligible for Pell Grants

Mark Jimerson works at Hinds Community College, and just graduated from the college with a 2-year degree in secondary education. His full Pell Grant eligibility will continue as he goes on to Jackson State University.

He's lucky, because 3,000 other students across the state found out in the Fall they weren't eligible for all the grant money they were used to.

"It's gonna really put a strain on them because they're gonna have to take out a payment plan or find some other way to pay for school," Jimerson says.

Over the summer, Congress adjusted Pell Grant requirements. The grants used to be available for a student for up to 18 semesters. The number has dropped to 12. Also, a family making $32,000 per year used to get full Pell Grant eligibility for students. That yearly income maximum has dropped to $23,000. In other words, a student in a family making more than $23,000 yearly will not get as much Pell Grant money as in years past.

A recent study by the Education Policy Center at The University of Alabama shows that enrollment declined at 14 of the 15 community colleges in Mississippi over the fall, due to the Pell Grant adjustments.

During a news conference at Hinds Community College, we asked why a student would need more than 12 semesters, or six years, of college anyway.

"Nationally, 65 percent of community college students are part time. And most of them are working more than 30 hours a week," said Stephen Katsinas, Director of the Education Policy Center.

Pell Grants are considered the cornerstone form of financial aid for colleges in Mississippi.

Community college officials from across the state plan to visit Washington D.C. In February to try to stifle any more Pell Grant changes. 

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