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Support Low-Income & First-Generation Students

Strengthen the Pell Grant Program

Recommendation: EFC urges lawmakers to strengthen the Pell Grant program by increasing access to the program, increasing the value and reach of a Pell Grant — including allowing incarcerated individuals to access Pell Grants — and protecting the Pell Grant program and its funding for current students and future generations.

In addition, EFC supports the Early Pell Promise Act, which would authorize an Early Federal Pell Grant Commitment Program, in which eighth grade students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunch would be eligible to receive a commitment to receive a Federal Pell Grant. EFC believes this legislation would give students, early in their academic career, the motivation and support that stems from knowing that a college education is financially possible for them.

Rationale: Academic research shows that Pell Grants positively influence degree attainment.

According to one study on the impact of financial aid on degree attainment for low-income students, conducted by academic researcher Ray Franke, “For students with limited financial means to attend higher education, receiving need-based aid that does not have to be repaid, substantially increases their chances to obtain a bachelor’s degree within six years.”

Another academic study, which was conducted by researchers Sara Goldrick-Rab and Robert Kelchen, shows that a commitment program such as the Early Pell Promise could increase the enrollment rates of Pell Grant recipients — students from low-income families — by approximately four percentage points, with projected program benefits exceeding program costs.

Simplify the FAFSA & Decrease the Burden of Verification

Recommendations: Simplify the FAFSA to increase the number of filers and therefore increase access to federal student aid for those daunted by the application process.

Lessen the burden of FAFSA verification — an audit-like process that is “unintentionally and quietly wreaking havoc on students trying to access financial aid,” according to the National College Access Network.

Rationale: According to the National College Access Network, “Only 56 percent of Pell-eligible students selected for verification go on to receive a Pell Grant, in comparison to 81 percent of Pell-eligible students not selected for verification. This represents a 25 percentage point melt: students who likely were Pell-eligible but were unable to access Pell dollars. It is unknown how many of these students are able to find a way to pay for higher education and still enroll and how many forgo their plans entirely.”

Leverage Existing College Access & Student Success Programs

Recommendation: EFC recommends the federal government support existing and proven college access and success initiatives and explore ways to leverage the existing infrastructure of nonprofit and state-based organizations. These organizations have long-term records of success in operating as the go-to sources in their communities and states for helping families to and through college.

Specifically, EFC recommends that the federal government provide nonprofit and state-based  organizations the resources to continue to offer and expand their services to an even greater number of students and families — including through the development of tools to help colleges better counsel their students.

Rationale: Collectively, EFC members offer a variety of robust and successful programs and services to students and families in their states, including scholarship and grant programs, financial aid and default prevention counseling, and extensive college planning and financial literacy programs and affordable education and refinancing loans.

In the past year, EFC members provided over 2.5 million individuals the resources needed to successfully plan, save, and pay for college. However, as nonprofits, EFC members have limited resources. These organizations could reach many more students and families in their communities with access to additional funding.