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FL college students receiving Pell grants more

An indication that Floridians needed help, change comes

Ashley Montgomery | 1/16/2014, 9 a.m.

Approximately 36 percent — that’s 17,117 of Florida International University students depend on the federal Pell grant to help pay for their studies during 2013. This accounts for a total of $77,143,267.60 in aid. According to reports, the number of state-university students receiving Pell grants has soared in recent years — an indication that more Floridians are having trouble affording rising education costs.

Unlike a loan, a federal pell grant, does not have to be repaid. The amount a student receives is based of their financial need, cost to attend school, status as a full-time or part-time student and plans to attend school for a full academic year or less.

In the past, the maximum Pell grant amount of a Pell grant given to students in Florida. In Miami alone, all major universities [Barry University, FIU, Florida Memorial University and Miami Dade College] are all included on the list of schools that are able to accept Pell grants.

Grants are a critical source in helping students such as Dashay Bivens, a communication arts major who attended FIU.

“It was a financial resource that greatly benefited my college career,” Bivens said. “Without it, I know that things would have been much more tough and hard for my family and I.”

The recession and Florida’s low income

According to University of Central Florida economist Mark Soskin, he attributes the increase in Pell grants to the recession and Florida’s slow economic recovery.

“Many people lost their jobs as the state manufacturing and construction sectors crumbled, at the same time, the low-wage tourism has grown,” Soskin said. “As incomes fell and tuition and other education costs rose, more people — recent high school graduates as well as adults wanting to return to learn new skills — qualified for the free aid Soskin says.

“We were poor, and now we’ve actually gotten poorer,” he said.

A recent report released last month by the Institute for College Access & Success estimated that next year’s maximum Pell will over the smallest share of college costs since the Pell program was launched 30 years ago. In turn, this is bad news for Pell recipients in the years to come.

More work = less studying

For the Black community in particular, Pell grants come in handy because the money that is used for tuition and books is less money that is earned from low-paying jobs.

“It would more difficult for me to earn my college degree from Florida State University, as a single father if I did not get Pell grants,” Michael Brewton said. “The money that I earn from working is money that I use to take care of my son.”

According to a research done by Pedro Villareal III, an education professor at the University of Central Florida: “one of the most powerful indicators of success is how much time you have available to study.”

It is important that all students exiting high school fill out the free application for Federal Student Aid.

Last year, only 55 percent of high school seniors statewide filled out the application, according to a report released last week by the Florida College Access Network.

The organization estimates thats students who graduated high school in 2013 and did not fill out the form missed out on an opportunity to get more than $100 million Pell grants.