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Full-time employment hurts Black students’ full-time enrollment

Freddie Allen | 6/9/2014, 2:04 p.m.
More than 60 percent of Black students could receive greater financial aid for college through the Pell Grant program, if ...
2014 Howard student holds her baby as she graduates. Freddie Allen

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – More than 60 percent of Black students could receive greater financial aid for college through the Pell Grant program, if they were enrolled full-time, according to a new report by the National Urban League.

The report, which focused on the profile of a typical Black student and the uphill battle they fight to get to college and earn a degree, found that 62 percent of Black students receive funding for college through the Pell Grant program, but many more would qualify if they didn’t have to work supporting themselves, their families or young children.

Sixty-five percent of Black students are independent, compared to 49 percent of White students.

“While 62 percent of African American students receive some Pell support, only 14 percent of independent African Americans receive the maximum Pell Grant award,” the report stated. During the 2011-2012 school year, maximum Pell Grant awards ranged between $4,500-$5,500.

According to the report, Black students are more likely to come from low-income families than their White peers. Black students are less likely to receive family contributions, which increases the likelihood of receiving higher Pell Grant awards.

A 2012 report on Pell Grant recipients by the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, said that Blacks account for 12 percent of Pell recipients, while 63 percent of funds allocated to the grant program went to White students.

In fact, the Pope Center report found that the typical Pell recipient was White, female, 25 years-old, works part-time, is financially independent and is going to school full-time.

Yet, the independent status of Black students often leaves them unable to attend college full-time and makes it even harder for them to graduate.

“The biggest distinction that we found is that most African American graduates are independent or non-traditional students compared to other races and ethnicities,” said Susie Saavedra, a senior legislative director at the National Urban League’s Washington Bureau.

Saavedra, who co-authored the report, said that the distinction between independent students and dependent students is significant because there are important differences that affect the way each group matriculates through college.

“Independent African American undergraduates are more likely than others to be single parents, 48 percent, compared to 23 percent of whites, 34 percent of Latinos, 36 percent of Native Americans and 19 percent of Asians,” the report stated.

More than 40 percent of independent Black students attend two-year schools and about 1 in 4 independent Black students are enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs. In contrast, more than half of all dependent Black students are enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs.

Saavedra said that Black students often enter college so academically unprepared that they’re using their valuable Pell Grant dollars to pay for remedial courses that don’t count toward a degree, further limiting their financial resources.

Despite their own constrained financial resources, Historically Black Colleges and Universities often graduate a disproportionate amount of Black students, compared to predominately White institutions.

Although, HBCUs account for less than 3 percent of all post-secondary institutions, they graduate almost 18 percent of the Black students that earn bachelor’s degrees.