Raising the Pell Grant’s Profile

The Pell Grant has a public-relations problem. Even students who receive the federal need-based grant may be in the dark about why they got it or what it means.

Sara Goldrick-Rab, an associate professor of educational-policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, outlines that issue in a new policy brief for Scholars Strategy Network. When her research team studied 3,000 Pell recipients in Wisconsin, she writes, they found that 80 percent of them could select the grant from a list of aid they might have received—but that was all they knew about it.

Ms. Goldrick-Rab offers one solution: Have the president of the United States send each recipient an annual letter explaining that the country is investing in her education—and expects her to work hard and finish college in return.

“Many Americans would approve that sort of message,” Ms. Goldrick-Rab writes, “especially the part that says what we expect in return for aid.” And, she adds, the message would help students, too, by showing them that the country stands behind them.

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