Colleges are forced to repay the government millions in unused Pell grant dollars

February 5, 2013

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Trevor was website administrator for EAG from December 2012 to March 2014.
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By Steve Gunn
EAGnews.org
    
DEARBORN, Mich. – Henry Ford Community College expects to increase student tuition by about 7 percent in 2013-14, due to a nagging budget deficit.
    
trashmoneyA significant part of that deficit can be traced to wasted federal Pell grants, which are issued to many students who enroll but never attend classes, or squander the money by flunking their classes.
    
The college will be obligated to return about $9.5 million to the federal government for unused or wasted Pell grant money in the next academic year, according to a story posted by TheNewsHerald.com.
    
“That is one of the major drivers of our deficit,” one college official was quoted as saying.
    
This is obviously a nationwide problem that costs many colleges a great deal of money.
    
College students can receive Pell grants for as much as $5,500 per semester, based on financial need, according to the news report. But if the students do not complete or pass their classes, their college is obligated to return the funds to the government.
    
Failed students also take up a lot of space that could be used by paying students, according to the news report.
    
The schools are free to pursue the failed students and force them to repay the money, but that process is rarely successful, according to officials.
    
Officials at Henry Ford Community College have talked about profiling students to determine the most likely to misuse Pell grants, and limit the amount they could receive, but that would be a difficult process, they said.
    
They’ve also considered doing background checks, to see if new students have unpaid tuition bills from other colleges, a sign they may be “milking the system.”
    
One Henry Ford CC board member suggested identifying the classes that students typically drop, so that the school can overenroll those classes and avoid having empty seats, the news report said.
    
College and federal officials have to start being a lot more careful about who they give grant money to, and find a way to force young people to be accountable for dollars they receive.
    
A lot of officials argue that the government needs to invest more money for student college assistance. Perhaps there is already enough money available, if more care were taken in choosing who gets it.

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