Claiborne Pell, founder of the Pell Grant, died New Years Day at the age of 90 after a battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Despite this tragic loss, students all over the country will continue to achieve a higher education with the help of Claiborne’s Pell Grant.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average award given to a student is $2,040. In February of 2008, Congress passed the Higher Education Reauthorization Act that is supposed to go into effect within 2009-2012, which will raise the average award per student to $9,000.
The grant covered approximately 75 percent of a student’s expenses in 1979, and only about 33 percent was covered in 2006.
Due to the rising cost of tuition, the grant will no longer cover a significant amount of student’s tuition, which is another reason why the Higher Education Reauthorization Act is tackling this issue.
There is often skepticism of the work ethic of students that are attending college on a grant. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, it is believed that students with grants may struggle and not be as prepared for college as students attending college without a grant or loan.
Despite this skepticism, there are many Americans that have come far with the help of the Pell Grant.
Dr. Joseph Gonzales, a physician in East Texas, grew up in a low-income family with a disabled father. Dr. Gonzales graduated high school in Houston with his school having a graduation rate of 1 percent and no textbooks available to the students.
The Pell Grant made it possible for him to go to Texas A&M and eventually go to medical school.
“I would have not been able to afford college and ultimately go to medical school to become a physician without the Pell Grant that I was awarded,” Dr.Gonzales said.
The Pell Grant helps students achieve a higher education who usually come from a family income of less than $20,000.
Joe Plante, a chemical engineer of 25 years from North Carolina, grew up in a low-income family. Once his father passed away, the Pell Grant helped him continue his college career.
“I am one out of 10 children and my father had passed away. We were not wealthy growing up. The Pell Grant was what really gave me a hope of having a future in college. The grant has truly helped me to achieve my goals and give back to the community,” Plante said.
Although several students throughout the country are successful in college with the Pell Grant, there are a few exceptions. Some students consider the grants as “free money” and drop their classes once the award is received.
“With any financial help that is given, I think there needs to be oversight of how this money is spent,” Plante said. “These students should feel an obligation to succeed with the Pell Grant. I am all for students using the money to try to get ahead and achieve their goals, but when they just think of it as government money they need to realize that it is the tax payers money, so that really upsets me that this money could be going to waste.”
Despite the few students who take this money for granted, there will always be people who will be eternally grateful for what the Pell Grant has done.
“For somebody like me that comes from a low-income family, the grant really provided me with the money that I needed to attend school,” Dr. Gonzales said.
“Now with the education that has been given to me, my children would not even qualify for the Pell Grant, and I believe that is the purpose of the grant, to allow people to make a better life for their children.”