Southwest Tennessee Community College is Selected for Dual Enrollment Pell Grants

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Robert G. Miller

Southwest Tennessee Community College has been chosen by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in a new federal program allowing low-income high school students to apply for Federal Pell grants to pay for dual enrollment courses.

Southwest joins 43 other schools across the country chosen for the experimental program, which begins this summer and is expected to help about 10,000 students nationwide. This is the first time Pell grants will be used for students still in high school.

"Innovation is an important underpinning in our efforts to expand college access and increase college completion for our nation's students," said U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. "We're thrilled these institutions have joined us in answering the President's call to reimagine the high school experience and create stronger linkages to college coursework. These sites will help us learn how the availability of Pell Grants impacts participation and success in dual enrollment programs."

In announcing the $20 million program, the U.S. Dept. of Education cited research which suggests that taking dual enrollment courses while in high school can lead to improved academic outcomes for students, such as higher grades in high school, increased enrollment in college after high school and higher rates of persistence in college. But for low-income students, cost becomes a formidable barrier to participation in dual enrollment programs. Through this experiment, the department said it hopes to learn about the impact of providing earlier access to financial aid on low-income students' college access, participation and success.

"This is certainly an opportunity for us to expand college access to students who have historically not been able to participate due to that financial barrier," stated Jacqueline Faulkner, vice president of student affairs at Southwest. According to Faulkner, research indicates students taking college classes while still in high school have a higher chance of graduating from college.

The Department of Education expects to evaluate the program in three to four years to determine its effectiveness and decide if the program can be expanded.