Rethinking Financial Aid for Student-Parents

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Could changing the federal financial aid structure help more student-parents earn a degree?

A recent op-ed published by the Center for American Progress argues that awarding larger Pell Grants could help more parents persist to graduation.

“These funds would not be enough to cover anywhere close to the full cost of child care—nor would they address underlying structural issues related to the lack of available spots in high-quality child care options—but they would at least recognize that parents face larger costs than nonparents, including for things that go beyond child care, such as food or clothing,” Ben Miller, vice president for postsecondary education at American Progress, notes in his column.

Two other countries—Finland and Canada—already offer similar assistance to parents, Miller noted.

His op-ed goes on to recommend two additional financial aid policy changes: adjusting income-driven repayment plans based on family composition and giving student-parents special priority when distributing Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants.

National data show that 22 percent of college students have at least one dependent child.

“America has a desperate need for greater investments in helping parents, particularly in making high-quality child care more widely available and making the tax code more generous for working families,” Miller writes. “…it’s long past time for the formulas and calculations that drive the distribution of billions of federal aid dollars to recognize and account for the unique needs of student-parents.”

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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