The Dayton Daily News
By Allison Brace
The COVID-19 pandemic has simultaneously accelerated demand for workers with education after high school and caused economic uncertainty for working families. Cost should never stop anyone from going to college. Pell Grants have been the cornerstone of financial aid for students from low-income backgrounds pursuing higher education since its creation in 1972, and 45% of Ohio high school seniors qualify for Pell Grant aid. At its peak, the maximum Pell Grant covered nearly 75% of the average cost of attending a public four-year university. Today, the maximum Pell Grant covers less than 50% of the cost of attendance at these same public colleges.
In Ohio, the situation is even more concerning. According to the National College Attainment Network, only 76% of two-year colleges and 6% of four-year colleges in Ohio are affordable for Pell Grant recipients.
Doubling the maximum Pell Grant would protect its purchasing power and cover 50% of a public four-year institution’s cost.
This year, Learn to Earn Dayton partnered with the National College Attainment Network and asked two experts – students who rely on Pell Grants to pay for college – to engage in national policy discussions. Student Advocacy Fellows Misty Grow and Makynzie Lowery met with Congressional offices. They told their stories and talked about why doubling the Pell Grant will ease the student loan burden, help students meet their basic needs and expand financial aid to more students.
I am a senior studying social work. I know firsthand how something can change and make college almost impossible to get through financially. I graduated from Brookville High School, attended Sinclair Community College and transferred to Wright State University. Because I was on free and reduced lunch during eighth grade, I could apply for the Montgomery County College Promise. This scholarship closed the gap between my financial aid and tuition at both Sinclair and Wright State. I also had a mentor who helped me prepare for college and transition to Sinclair smoothly. At the end of my freshman year at Sinclair Community College, I had a falling out with my parents. I had to move into an apartment off-campus, because Sinclair does not have housing. I was going to school full-time, working full-time at Chipotle and working as a part-time tutor at Sinclair. Even with the Montgomery County College Promise’s support, I could not afford my living expenses, books, and other things that were necessary for me to be successful in college. I went from the Dean’s List to getting a failing grade because of this financial turmoil. While I am now in a much better position, many college students go through what I did without help from a scholarship program. The Pell Grant needs to be doubled, because it is not enough to support many of the nation’s college students. The Pell Grant covers less than half of the cost of attendance at most public fouryear institutions, and students struggle to create a better future for themselves and their families. Without the help of the Montgomery County College Promise, I would be in crippling school debt, as many students are. I hope that my work can bring awareness to this issue that affects so many students all over the country.
I am a junior at the University of Dayton studying education with a concentration in intervention specialty. As a first-generation college student, I wouldn’t have expected to see myself where I am now. Since no one in my family attended college, it didn’t seem realistic for me to go. I didn’t have anyone to guide and support me, and affording college seemed impossible. When I started at Kettering-Fairmont High School, I was not sure what I wanted to do as a career. I found out that my high school offered a career tech program in allied health, which I found interesting. Through this program, I discovered my passion for advocating and working with students with exceptionalities. The career tech program also offered a scholarship to Sinclair Community College. That scholarship opportunity gave me the push I needed to go to college and achieve my goal of working with students with special needs. Transitioning between high school to college was a major challenge, and I had no clue where to start or how to get support. I tried to adapt to the rigor of college while working two jobs, one with the City of Moraine and the other in retail. Since my family did not have experience with the higher education system, I was on my own to navigate through financial aid applications and college affordability. Sinclair offered a program called Summer Bridge that helped me tremendously. I had a mentor who helped me find out about financial aid offerings, courses, and more. I had advisors and professors who were all a tremendous help in directing me towards the right resources and support services. Thanks to them, I overcame many obstacles in my college attainment journey. While at Sinclair, I was introduced to the UD Sinclair Academy to make continuing my education a little more accessible and affordable. Completing my FASFA applications and deciding what courses to take was hard. Through all of my struggles with college attainment and affordability, I have developed a great passion for helping other people who have struggles. As an advocacy fellow, I really want to make a difference in other students’ lives by advocating for a doubled Pell Grant. Many students like me must juggle school, work, home life, and keeping their GPA up. A doubled Pell Grant, to cover at least half of the cost of a public four-year institution, would make a major impact on many students’ ability to get an advanced degree without having to take on crippling debt. Allison Brace is a junior studying communications and marketing at the University of Dayton. She participates in the Semester of Service program through the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community.