Stimulus Funds, Higher Education, and Inequality
Madeline St. Amour at Inside Higher Ed:
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Education released figures on how much each college will receive from the $12 billion set aside for higher education in the coronavirus stimulus package passed by Congress last month.
It's hard to say definitively who the winners and losers are, as the funds were parsed out by a specific formula. But that formula proved to disadvantage some of the institutions that may need the most help right now.
"I think it was pretty clear from Congress that the intent was to really focus on the need of students at institutions from the fact that they so heavily weighed the formula toward full-time Pell Grant recipients," said Megan McClean Coval, vice president at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.
One of the key phrases in that sentence? "Full-time Pell Grant recipients."
"The way it reads to me, the formula was designed to help schools with the most full-time enrollment, and that inherently disadvantages a large part of the student population," said Clare McCann, deputy director for federal policy at New America. "I think we do see a lot of those institutions that you might not expect rise to the top, when we’re typically talking about community colleges as the workforce driver."
For example, Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana has nearly 62,000 students and received about $33 million. Georgia State University has an undergraduate enrollment of 25,000 and received $45 million.
Sixty-five percent of community college students are enrolled part-time, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Part-time students are also more likely to be nonwhite, low-income and first-generation students than their full-time counterparts, according to a report from Achieving the Dream, a nonprofit organization dedicated to community college student success. They're also more likely to be working full-time and taking care of family members.