Pell aid left on the table

More than one-fifth of California community college students who were eligible and applied for student aid didn’t receive a Pell Grant, according to a new research brief.

“Our calculations indicate that failure to receive Pell Grant aid among seemingly eligible students results in over $100 million being ‘left on the table’ in only a single semester,” according to the brief by the Center for Community College Leadership and Research at the University of California, Davis.

The center said it is further studying why those student didn’t receive Pell aid, but it did note several potential factors, including the federal paperwork process. For example, before students can receive a Pell Grant, they must “verify” their application.

“This additional paperwork may become the hurdle that prevents financially needy students from receiving Pell Grant aid, despite having completed the FAFSA (federal student aid application) and enrolled in the required number of units to be eligible for aid,” the brief said.

Another reason that students may not be using the grant is because they don’t know that can apply it toward some non-tuition college expenses. Community college tuition costs in California are relatively low, especially when waivers and other aid is included, and students may not realize that Pell also can help cover some living costs, the report said.

In 2015-16, more than 471,000 California community college students — 20 percent of all students enrolled — received $1.6 billion in Pell grants. California also offers its own state aid to help community college students, including a fee waiver program which covers enrollment fees for low-income students.

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