I’m delighted to present the final installment of my three-part series on how to develop and implement a summer strategy to help students stay on a path to graduate while increasing your institution’s retention numbers.
- In my first post, I discussed how incorporating course-sharing into a summer plan can address many students’ need for more flexible schedules and help even your high-performing students graduate on time and with less debt.
- In my second post, I addressed the related issue of how a summer strategy can help students who have struggled in one or more courses regain good academic standing.
Both these problems are common ones facing many institutions—both private and public.
In this post, I will discuss the critical issue of how these and other summer strategies can qualify for Federal Pell funds. But first, I want to acknowledge the assistance of Bob Evans, an expert in college financial aid who has worked with institutions, the federal government, and industry partners over the years. Bob’s contribution to this post can’t be overstated.
Key Takeaways About Course Sharing & Federal Pell Grant Eligibility
– Institutions that award Federal Pell grants during the academic year are required to award them for summer courses.
– Students need to meet standard Pell grant criteria to be eligible and understand enrollment requirements, when applicable.
– To calculate summer Pell eligibility, identify how many Pell dollars a student received in the fall and spring.
We hear frequently from colleges and universities who are enthusiastic about the value of course sharing, but who wonder how students will be able to pay for the classes they take.
The good news – contrary to what some people may have heard – is that financial aid is available just as it would be during the fall, winter, and spring terms. It’s an entitlement available to all Federal Pell-eligible students. It’s also a requirement that institutions awarding Federal Pell grants during the regular academic year must award them for summer courses as well.
As with all Pell grants, students must establish eligibility and meet the customary student-progress requirements. Students who have used their Federal Pell grant eligibility for the entire academic year must be enrolled half-time to qualify for grants during the summer sessions; if students have not used their full-time eligibility, they may also receive a grant when they are enrolled less than half-time.
When calculating summer Pell eligibility, it’s important to understand how many Pell dollars the student received in the fall and spring. If a student received their full student award (meaning that they were full-time students in the fall and spring) they are automatically a candidate for year-round Pell, which increases their eligibility to as much as 150% of their annual award. That’s a lot of value for a half-time enrollment.
There is one significant exception to the “rule” I’ve just described. And it may create an even more favorable outcome for some students. If a student didn’t use their full Pell eligibility during the regular school year, the unused portion of their grant can be applied to summer term without the requirement that the student take two courses. So, for example, if a Pell student was full-time in the fall and half-time in the spring, they can use the unused remainder of the spring award and apply that to a single summer course. This might not be a common occurrence, but it’s worth knowing about.
Thankfully, most student financial aid administrators are familiar with the year-round Federal Pell process and many of the internal systems they work with are built to take care of year-round Pell awards. The Common Origination and Disbursement System, which governs the Federal Pell system nationally, also will keep track of how many Federal Pell dollars a student uses over their academic career.
For financial aid administrators who would like to know more about the intricacies of full-year Federal Pell grants, I would point you to a wonderful (and thorough!) resource from the 2018 Federal Student Aid Training Conference. You can watch the videos from the conference and if you scroll down to Session 15, you’ll find the session on “Getting the Most out of Year-Round Federal Pell Grants.”
I hope this sheds some light on what may seem like an esoteric topic. But be assured, it’s an important factor when thinking about how a summer course-sharing strategy can help your institution.
Watch the session to learn more: “Getting the Most out of Year-Round Federal Pell Grants.”