Why Pell Grants Matter


Pell Grants open the doors of opportunities for all community college students, and particularly for students attending rural community and tribal colleges.


This is because rural America’s most important resource is its people. According to the Rural Policy Research Institute’s analysis (2006), less than 2% of rural America’s people work in agriculture, and less than 1% receive their primary income from agriculture. The importance of agriculture to a strong, innovative rural America in an information age is now far exceeded by the importance of developing rural America’s most important resource, its people.


“Pell Grants are rural America’s most important human resource development program.” RCCA-Sponsored Report on Pell Grant Eligibility Restrictions Issued (February 12, 2013) Community College Students Hard Hit by 2012 Changes in Pell Eligibility.


At a Capitol Hill Congressional Briefing hosted by U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) on Tuesday February 12, 2013, the latest report on Pell Grants sponsored by the Rural Community College Alliance, in partnership with scholars from The University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center, the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University, and Iowa State University was released. Titled “The Impact of the New Pell Grant Restrictions on Community Colleges: A Three State Study of Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi,” this report documented study of the impact of the new Pell Grant eligibility restrictions on rural community colleges in Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi was released (see Pell Grants, below). Fifty community college leaders from 23 states attended the event, at which Senator Cochran indicated his strong support for continued Pell Grant funding to help rural Americans. An inspirational short video, “Faces of Pell at Hinds,” produced by the Public Relations Office at Hinds Community College, was presented prior to the report.


Key Findings…


  • 47 of 62 community colleges in Alabama, Arkansas, & Mississippi lost enrollment from Fall 2011-2012.
  • Over 5,000 students already lost Pell in Fall 2012.
  • Nearly 17,000 students will lose Pell in 2012-2013.
  • Total Pell aid for all two- and four-year public & private colleges in AL, AR, & MS was $1.3 billion in 2010-11
  • A total of 283,634 students at two- and four-year public & private colleges in the 3 states received Pell in 2010-2011.


With nearly 9 of every 10 students in public institutions in these three states, community colleges provide vital access to academic transfer and workforce training programs.


  • The 136,583 Pell recipients at community colleges in the three states drew down $614.5 million in aid in 2010-2011.
  • Front-line community college financial aid administrators strongly favor less regulations.
  • Aid administrators support the year-round Pell Grant.
  • Aid administrators strongly support (53 out of 60) a slightly lower maximum Pell with fewer restrictions, not a higher maximum Pell with more restrictions
  • Pell funding for developmental education is vital to community colleges in the Deep South; 38,118 students on Pell took at least one developmental education course in Fall 2012.