Pell Grants Shouldn’t Pay for Remedial College Classes

Tim Goral's picture
Monday, May 13, 2013

Everyone, from President Obama to Rep. Paul Ryan to Bill Gates, seems to have an idea for improving the federal Pell Grant Program for higher education.

Worthy though some of these efforts may be, none reveals the crux of the problem: A huge proportion of this $40 billion annual federal investment is flowing to people who simply aren’t prepared to do college-level work. And this is perverting higher education’s mission, suppressing completion rates and warping the country’s K-12 system.

About two-thirds of low-income community-college students — and one-third of poor students at four-year colleges — need remedial (or “developmental”) education, according to Complete College America, a nonprofit group. But it’s not working: Less than 10 percent of students who start in remedial education graduate from community college within three years, and just 35 percent of remedial students earn a four-year degree within six years.

What if the government decreed that three years hence, students would only be eligible for Pell aid if enrolled in credit-bearing college courses, thus disqualifying remedial education for support?

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