Today we released a new analysis of federal financial aid application rates and receipt at the California community colleges (CCCs), where we found that many students who are likely eligible for federal aid are not applying for it. As a result, CCC students are leaving behind as much as half a billion dollars in federal Pell Grant awards that could help pay for many education-related expenses.
There are several theories as to why community college students in California are applying for federal financial aid at low rates. Some say it’s because CCC students are more likely to attend part-time, and that part-time students everywhere are less likely to apply for aid than full-time students. Some say that Californians have higher incomes, and aren’t eligible for as much aid as students elsewhere. Yet, when looking at a variety of subgroups of community college students in California and other states – including full-time students and those who are likely eligible for Pell Grants – CCC students are still less likely to apply for federal aid than comparable students in the rest of the country.
Reasonable people can disagree about what causes this problem and how to solve it, but the bottom line is that California needs more college graduates and a stronger economy – and can’t afford to pass up hundreds of millions of dollars that could go towards supporting both.