Currently, the federal government provides more than $12 billion in Pell Grants to help low-income students defray the cost of college tuition and expenses. As demonstrated during the Senate debate on the budget resolution (see article on p. 4), an additional Pell Grant award for low-income students who complete a rigorous course load in high school has been gaining momentum on Capitol Hill. Over the last few weeks, legislation called the Pell Grants Plus Act has been introduced in both chambers of Congress.
On March 4 in the House, Representative Max Burns (R-GA), along with ten cosponsors, introduced the act as H.R. 3894. “The Pell Grants Plus Act will provide additional financial assistance to hardworking students who have chosen to prepare for college by taking rigorous high school classes to help meet the academic challenges of higher education.” said Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH), who is a cosponsor.
In the Senate, Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) introduced the corresponding bill S. 2206 on March 11. “Pell Grants play a very important role in the education of our children . . . and my amendment cuts out a slightly bigger piece of the pie to help fund them,” he said. “This new Pell Grant program will reward those students who are willing to put in the extra effort in high school to help prepare themselves for a successful college career and who demonstrate financial need.”
The Pell Grants Plus Act reflects the president’s proposal to award an additional $1,000 of Pell Grant funding to students who successfully complete a rigorous high school program of study as part of the State Scholars program (see box on p. 4). Students must be enrolled full time in their first year of study at an institution of higher education, and be eligible to receive a federal Pell Grant. In their second year of college, students would be able to receive an additional $1,000 award if they remain eligible for a federal Pell Grant and obtain a grade point average of at least 3.0 during their first year, while making satisfactory academic progress.
|State Scholars Program Overview
The State Scholars Initiative is designed to better prepare students academically for college and employment by encouraging them to take more rigorous courses. While currently in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Indiana, Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Washington, only Texas has fully implemented the initiative. The president’s fiscal 2005 budget calls for $12 million to expand the program to all fifty states.
Studies recently released by both the Education Trust and the American Diploma Project make the point that the best way to prepare a student for future success in college or the workplace is through a rigorous high school course schedule. According to these studies, students from every background and every income level benefit when placed in higher-level classes.
Federal funds awarded through the State Scholars program go to a partnership of local school districts, businesses, and other education entities. In order to encourage students to take more rigorous high school courses, business leaders make school presentations about college and careers, provide incentives to encourage students to enter college, and sometimes volunteer as mentors in local schools.
States currently participating in the program had to have their standards approved by the Center for State Scholars and the U.S. Department of Education. For a list of courses each state requires visit https://all4ed.org/files/archive/publications/StateScholarsRequirements.pdf.
More information on the Center for State Scholars is available at http://www.centerforstatescholars.org/.