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Nearly 60 percent of two-year students get financial aid

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​Fifty-seven percent of students at public two-year colleges received some type of financial aid in the 2011-12 academic year, compared to a national average of 71 percent of all undergraduate students, according to new federal data.

About half of two-year college students received grants—which include scholarships or tuition waivers from federal, state, institutional or private sources, including employers. Overall, 60 percent of all undergraduates received grants in 2011-12.

Breaking it down, about 44 percent of community college students received some type of federal aid, with 38 percent receiving Pell grants—compared to the overall national average of 57 percent and 41 percent, respectively, according to a new report on some of findings from the 2011-12 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:12).

At the state level, about 12 percent of two-year college students received state grants, compared to about 15 percent of all students.

Fewer community college students also received veterans benefits, work-study aid and student loans, than the average of all undergraduates. Two-year college students received about $3,200 in total grants and took out $4,700 in student loans. They received about $5,600 in veterans benefits—compared to $7,500 for all undergraduates—and $2,700 for work-study, actually exceeding the overall average of $2,300.

The First Look report and data files are produced by the National Center for Education Statistics at the Institute of Education Sciences, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education. The full data report will be released later this year.

Keeping tuition in check

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan cited the report to emphasize the important role that federal student aid plays in providing access to higher education and to tout the Obama administration’s efforts to beef up the Pell Grant program.

“As seen in the data, more college students are using federal grants to pay for college,” Duncan said in a statement. “We’ve expanded the Pell Grant program to provide billions of dollars a year in federal aid to low-income students. In total, the number of Pell Grant recipients has increased more than 50 percent since 2008, giving millions of students around the country the opportunity to attend college.”

Duncan added that more needs to be done to keep college affordable. In particular, state policymakers and individual colleges and universities must work to keep rising tuition in check, he said.