Low-income high-school students enrolled in courses at three Illinois community colleges can now qualify for federally funded Pell Grants through an experimental program announced this week by the U.S. Department of Education.
Among the 44 U.S. colleges invited to participate in the program are Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois Central College in East Peoria, and Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville.
More than 400 students from 12 high schools in Sandburg's district took dual-credit courses during the past year. Lisa Hanson, Financial Aid Director at Carl Sandburg College, says this will make dual enrollment possible for more students.
"About 40 percent of the students in the high schools were qualifying for the free-lunch program, and so we feel that there are a significant number who will benefit," Hanson says.
Students are limited to the equivalent of six full-time years of Pell Grants. Hanson says awarding grants to high school students won't take away money from undergraduates relying on the aid, but it will count toward their own six-year limit.
Hanson says dual enrollment gives students a head start on college and allows them to graduate on time or ahead of schedule.
"The success rate for us has been a huge thing," Hanson says. "Looking at the students who have participated in the dual enrollment classes, 91 percent of them were completing those classes successfully, which was huge."
To qualify for Pell Grants next fall, students must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by June 30.
- Lacy Scarmana of WVIK contributed to this report.