More students attend college

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Students use pell grants to pay for tuition, books and fees. | Courtesy photo

Recent increases in federal Pell grants have allowed more students to attend community colleges, according to a study released by the University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center.

The report, which profiled 205 schools in 25 states, was released Friday and showed that enrollment jumped by more than 9 percent in one year and the total number of Pell awards rose by more than half. In addition, it found, 70 percent of all full-time community college students received Pell grants in 2009-10.

The study found that the average number of Pell grants at community colleges in the states surveyed increased 55 percent in just one year, from $689,326 in 2008-09 to $1.07 million in 2009-10. The total money awarded also increased, from an average of $1.43 million in 2008-09 to $2.53 million in 2009-10.

Locally, that trend held true as LBW Community College reported a 63 percent increase in students receiving Pell grants over the last two years.

Community colleges “see every day how Pell Grants help academically talented, economically disadvantaged students access and succeed in higher education as they pursue their American Dream,” the report read.

“As is often the case when the economy takes a downturn, colleges across the nation experience increased enrollment, including LBWCC,” said LBWCC marketing director Renee LeMaire. “In addition to traditional students who are recent high school graduates, older students are taking advantage of the opportunity to go back to school and begin their college education, complete a degree or make a career change through learning new technical skills.”

The report, which was done with Iowa State University and California State University Northridge, is based on surveys of directors of 205 community colleges in 25 states, including Alabama. It was inspired, the authors explained, by a visit last year to Alabama’s Bevill State Community College’s Pickens County Center, where they saw students lining up to sign up for the new summer Pell funding.

LeMaire said LBWCC has experienced a significant number of inquiries about financial aid for the past two years, estimated to be about twice the number as before.

“Last year, for the first time, Pell Grants were made available year-round. Many students took advantage of the opportunity to take classes last summer with their Pell grant funds, but we’re currently awaiting news from Congress and the U.S. Department of Education on whether or not these funds will be available again this summer.”

In order for students to receive Pell Grants or any other type of federal assistance, they must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) with the U.S. Department of Education online at

LBWCC’s financial aid directors offer informational material on both the Andalusia campus and MacArthur campus in Opp.

Registration for summer semester classes runs April 15 through May 24.

Students should start the application process now to apply for federal student aid for the Fall semester. The annual amount for a full Pell Grant is $5,550 for qualified students, making funds available for tuition, fees, books and living expenses.