This program improved graduation rates. So why was it abandoned?

Stefanie Botelho's picture
Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer school was boosting college graduation rates—but not anymore.

By the time Leah Stone got her bachelor’s degree this spring from New Jersey’s Montclair State University, her four-year higher education had stretched to six years. It would have taken even longer had she not been able to stay in school during the summers. An unexpectedly popular experiment allowed Stone and other students to use federal Pell Grants to pay for summer classes.

But the program ended after the summer of 2011. And just as policymakers try to speed up the pace at which students get through college, the principal federal financial-aid program no longer covers courses taken in the summer. It’s a conundrum in which the government wants to increase the number of people with university and college degrees, higher-education analyst Sandy Baum said, while at the same time telling students that “If you take more [credits] during the summer, we’re not going to help you.”

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