Is School Out for the Summer? The Impact of Year-Round Pell Grants on Academic and Employment Outcomes of Community College Students

By Casey Nguyen

A recent study by the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University examines changes in student outcomes as a result of year-round Pell (YRP). It measures the differences in credits earned, credential completion, and labor market outcomes, all of which can provide insight into the value of YRP. The study looks at the impact of providing additional summer financial support for community college students in one state. 

The evolution of year-round Pell:

  • The Pell Grant is the largest source of financial assistance for low-income college students. In the academic year 2015-2016, over $28 billion was allocated to 7.6 million students, most of whom had family incomes below $50,000.
  • The maximum award a student may receive totals up to two semesters worth of full-time courses.
  • Until the introduction of year-round Pell (YRP) in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, students were not offered Pell during the summer.
  • To encourage completion, students were only eligible for Pell if they attended full-time and took a minimum of 6 credits in the summer of the same academic year.
  • In May of 2017, congress voted to approve the restoration of YRP and the Department of Education announced that YRP would be available starting July 1, 2017.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Expanded eligibility could lead to an increase in Pell Grant disbursement for the summer, gains in credits earned, improved completion rates, and higher earnings for both certificate programs and associate degree earners.
  • For every $1000 of YRP disbursement per student, likelihood of summer enrollment increases by 27 percentage points.
  • YRP will not have a crowding-out effect on loans. The crowding-out effect found on state and institutional aid is so minimal, it will not have a substantial influence on outcomes.
  • Adult students will benefit the most from an increase in educational funding.
  • If there is an incentive for students to attend college year-round, students will likely enroll in a summer term leading to increases in completion rates.