This chapter certainly stirred a bit of fire in me. In particular, I spent a lot of time wrestling with this ethical question about the current state of the Pell program:

Are we doing students from low-income families a service by funding part of their college expenses or a disservice by giving them false hopes? Is the Pell program a sound financial investment in the nation’s future, or is it a wasteful and ineffective program that allows students access to money–perhaps even enticing them to attend college and incur debt–without ensuring that they graduate from college? – Sara Goldrick-Rab (1)

Federal financial aid needs to be rethought. The fact that a Pell Grant only covered 23% of the cost of attendance for a public, 4-year college in 2012 suggests it’s ineffective. Attending college with this little funding is too much of a gamble. Either, federal financial aid needs increased or the whole financial aid system needs to be reimagined. To me, the best way to communicate this need to the public is to make it personal. For instance, in Paying the Price, Chloe Johnson’s story about paying for college is heartbreaking and a compelling example for why we should focus on building empathy with affected students and prioritize investing in financial aid.

Additionally, we should all be aware of the politically motivated demonization of Pell Grant recipients, which is quite upsetting I might add. (But I’m also sick of politically-motivated-anything at the moment.) First, I wholeheartedly agree with Sara that focusing on “Pell Runners” and not-supported-by-evidence “fraud” distracts from the real issues at hand. Not to mention the politicians who assert that since they were able to pay their way though college (years ago), today’s students must be “lazy.” To me, each of these perspectives dehumanizes the individuals reliant on federal financial aid and this lack of empathy is what troubles me. If our goal is to help students complete college and climb the socioeconomic ladder, we should embrace their experiences, needs, and solicit their feedback to get past these issues.

While I was brainstorming possible solutions this week I had a couple ideas. One way I’d like to see empathy spread about the experiences of Pell recipients is to provide an avenue for these students to submit feedback directly to policymakers. Whether there’s an online form or some kind of public blog to gather and share Pell recipients experiences. Alternatively, I was thinking of ways to foster relationships and gratitude between students and scholarship donors. I’m just throwing these ideas out there in their unrefined state because there may already be these programs and people pursuing such opportunities.

In any case, at the end of the day, we should be working to improve peoples lives through education with the full knowledge of this issue:

The Pell Grant clearly provides an incentive for students to attend college by discounting the price of attendance, but it comes nowhere close to making college affordable. – Sara Goldrick-Rab (2)

Discussion Questions

  1. What do you think about Sara Goldrick-Rab’s question: “Are we doing students from low-income families a service by funding part of their college expenses or a disservice by giving them false hopes?”
  2. How can we promote empathy of students’ Pell experiences?

The featured image is provided CC0 by Simon Stratford via Unsplash.

  1. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price, p. 67-68.
  2. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price, p. 76-77.

Leave a Reply