Graduation rates lagging for Pell grant recipients

Staci Krutsinger came from a single-parent household, and when she  was applying to attend the University, her older sibling was already attending college.

“That made it more stressful to not only succeed, but harder to be financially stable, too,” she said.

However, Krutsinger, a December 2012 graduate from Lee’s Summit, Mo., was able to use Pell grants, federal scholarships based on financial need, to pay for her geology degree. She also used her Pell grant to achieve certification to teach 6th to 12th grade earth and space science from the UKanTeach program, and she now works as a substitute teacher in Ft. Bragg, N.C., where she lives with her husband.

“Without the Pell grant, I would be at least $15,000 more in debt,” Krutsinger said.

Other Pell grant beneficiaries, according to the University’s Office of Institutional Research and Planning (IRP), are not as successful. Full time University students receiving Pell grants have shown to be less likely to graduate than students who do not receive grants.

After six years, 47.5 percent of freshmen receiving Pell grants entering the University in the fall of 2005 or 2006 completed a degree. The graduation rate for their classmates was nearly 62.8 percent.

This year, 4,536 University students, approximately 15 percent of the total student population, received Pell grants, the office reported.

The lower degree completion rates among Pell grant recipients at the University is part of a national trend, according to a recently published study by the non-profit College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The study said that many nontraditional students — students 25 years or older — now receive the grant. The study also noted that many recipients are simply not ready for college-level work.

“Many workers found their labor market opportunities limited and returned to school to improve their skills,” The College Board’s report said. “Too many students lack the information and guidance needed to make the best choices about what and where to study.”

The University has set standards to have Pell grants renewed to help ensure that students stay on track. The satisfactory academic progress (SAP) standards, include completion of at least 24 hours each academic year at the University and maintain a 2.5 cumulative GPA, according to the University’s Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.

“Even though I couldn’t qualify and didn’t get any other scholarships, I still had a set standard to uphold to make sure I could get that money,” Krutsinger said.

Jon Heaver, a junior from Sterling Heights, Mich., is another student, like Krutsinger, who has bucked the trend. Heaver qualified for his Pell grant based on low family income and high ACT score. Heaver is on track to graduate next year with a degree in music education.

“It had allowed me to spend less time worrying about paying for college, and more time to focus on my studies,” Heaver said.

Since Heaver does not need to work while in school, he has been able to travel around the country as a gigging musician.

“Due to the fact that I have had time to travel and make music around the country, I already have a number of job opportunities coming my way, in both the U.S. and the U.K.,” Heaver said.
Heaver has already been asked to apply for a music director position.

Brandon Woodard, junior from Topeka, is also taking advantage of the financial assistance provided by a Pell grant while serving as vice president of Student Senate.

“I would not be able to attend KU if it weren’t for the grant, and because of this, I’ve been able to get involved outside of the classroom,” Woodard said. “The Pell grant has provided me with an opportunity to afford a post-secondary education.”

Marshall Schmidt is a graduate student majoring in biomedical engineering from Mount Hope. Read more from .

  • Updated Apr. 30, 2013 at 11:16 pm
  • Edited by Nikki Wentling