Justin Draeger, the president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said in a statement that the organization was concerned to see the Pell Grant increase limited to certain schools, saying it would “add new complexity to a financial-aid system on the verge of much-needed simplification.” He added that concerns about quality and accountability in the for-profit sector should be addressed through regulatory changes to the Higher Education Act; such changes are currently underway at the Education Department.
Stacey Nottingham, the campus director of Pima’s Phoenix campus, where Ms. Kern attends, said she hoped that the 68 percent of its roughly 700 students who are Pell grant recipients were not penalized for others institutions’ past mistakes. “There’s a perception that private colleges are not good stewards of taxpayer dollars, when we’re held to the same, if not higher standards, as other institutions in higher ed,” Ms. Nottingham said.
According to the latest federal data, the average cost of Pima’s largest program is $18,715, and students graduate with a median debt of $7,600 to $9,500. Two years after entering repayment, 34 percent of borrowers are making progress on repaying their loans, 19 percent are not, and 9 percent have either defaulted or have delinquent accounts. The average income of its graduates is $20,000 to $29,000.
Ms. Kern, who has a job at Kohl’s, while also working on campus through the federal work-study program, said she struggled to see how Congress was acting in her best interest. Soon, she will start an externship in operating rooms and will not be able to hold other jobs, making the Pell grant crucial.
“That $550 may not seem like a lot to a lot of people, but that’s less money I have to worry about on my student loan, and less worry about what we’ll have to eat,” she said. “Life is hard enough as it is already. Why would they want to make it harder for those of us who want to better our lives, just based on the schools we choose?”