Two of Tennessee’s Community Colleges were chosen by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in a new federal program allowing low-income high school students to apply for Federal Pell grants to pay for dual enrollment courses.
Northeast State and Southwest Tennessee State community colleges join 42 other schools across the country chosen for the experimental program, which begins this summer and is expected to help about 10,000 students nationwide. This is the first time Pell grants will be used for students still in high school.
“Innovation is an important underpinning in our efforts to expand college access and increase college completion for our nation’s students,” said U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. “We’re thrilled these institutions have joined us in answering the President’s call to re-imagine the high school experience and create stronger linkages to college coursework. These sites will help us learn how the availability of Pell Grants impacts participation and success in dual enrollment programs.”
In announcing the $20 million program, the U.S. Dept. of Education cited research which suggests that taking dual enrollment courses while in high school can lead to improved academic outcomes for students, such as higher grades in high school, increased enrollment in college after high school and higher rates of persistence in college. But for low-income students, cost becomes a formidable barrier to participation in dual enrollment programs. Through this experiment, the department said it hopes to learn about the impact of providing earlier access to financial aid on low-income students’ college access, participation and success.
“Tennessee's Community Colleges have long seen the benefit of high school students getting a jump start on their college degree through dual enrollment programs,” said Warren Nichols, vice chancellor for community colleges at the Tennessee Board of Regents. “We’re excited for the students in those communities who will now be able to take advantage of this opportunity to start their college careers before they leave high school.”
The Department of Education expects to evaluate the program in three to four years to determine its effectiveness and decide if the program can be expanded.
About Tennessee’s Community Colleges
Tennessee’s Community Colleges is a system of 13 colleges offering a high-quality, affordable, convenient and personal education to prepare students to achieve their educational and career goals in two years or less. The colleges offer associates degree and certificate programs, workforce development programs and transfer pathways to four-year degrees. For more information, visit tncommunitycolleges.org.
The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.