Importance of Pells

Ed. Note: Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education Eduardo Ochoa recently spoke to the American Student Association of Community Colleges and affirmed the Obama administration’s commitment to providing college aid to low-income students by preserving the maximum Pell Grant at $5,550.

Amber Mullins, a community college student in Tampa, Fla., submitted the following post to explain why Pell Grants are so important to students like her.

As a single mother of two and a student at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Fla., I am extremely grateful for community colleges and the role they play in our society.  I am attending Hillsborough in their business administration program, trying to develop lifelong career skills that will allow me to support my two children and me.

This opportunity is only possible because of the Pell Grant Program.  At last week’s American Student Association of Community Colleges’ (ASACC) National Student Advocacy Conference in Washington D.C., we spent two days discussing the importance of the Pell Grant to millions of students like me.  This small investment (we also learned that education receives less than 3 percent of the federal budget) in students will pay great dividends over time by keeping America at the forefront of economic and workforce competitiveness.  Some in Congress are proposing to cut the maximum Pell Grant, which would be detrimental to me and millions of other students.  It would also likely extend the time it will take for me to complete my education.  The reason it will take longer to complete my degree is that without that money, I will have to work longer hours at a part-time job, to support my family instead of focusing on my degree.

One of of the highlights of the ASACC conference was a speech by Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education Eduardo Ochoa.  He spoke to more than 375 students about the priorities of the U.S. Department of Education and President Obama.   We were excited to hear that the number-one short-term goal in higher education of the Department of Education and President Obama was the same as that of ASACC:  Maintain the Pell Grant maximum award at $5,550 for Fiscal Year 2012.

The conference not only taught students about the issues facing America’s education system, but provided us with the opportunity to visit the offices of our representatives and senators to share our stories. By telling my story of how the Pell Grant has transformed my college experience and has given me new opportunities, I believe I told the story of so many more just like myself who have benefited from this important program.

Amber Mullins is a student at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Fla. and vice president of communications for the American Student Association of Community Colleges. The views reflected here are her own.


  1. Having proudly servered my country for over 8 years in the US Marine Corps I would not be able to attend clooege if it were not for the pell grant. I am a VEP era veteran who’s educational bennifits ran out as soon as my VEP funds were exhausted. The economy has taken a nose dive and i was forced to reinvent myself by going back to school. Had it not been for the pell grant i would be unemployed, looking for work and not able to afford to pay for school at all. I strongly support the pell grant and its maximum amount of 5,500 remain untouched. Semper Fi

  2. I support the Pell Grant program immensely. I am currently an incarcerated youth in Kansas, and I have been here since the age of thirteen (I’m currently eighteen.) My release is in October this year, and I wouldn’t be able to go to college like I want to if it weren’t for this program. I am going to school for Pre-Veterinary program, and then plan on going to graduate school at K-State. Just think: I am being given a chance to redeem myself. Thank you!

  3. When I first applied for FA, I was told that because my husband made too much money, I was only eligible for the State Lottery aid. I have tried explaining to my FA counselour that my husband does not help out one iota with my school. As a matter of fact, he is totally against my going to school. I have tried asking around about Pell Grants, and I get the same answer. Go to FAFSA, and it pretty much says I do not qualify for a Pell Grant. So far, I have taken out 2 student loans. My husband has nothing or will not have anything to do with my school costs, so why do they include his income with mine, when I am the one that has to incur the loans. Any feed back would be greatly appreciated.

  4. The importance of Pell grants to students in public colleges cannot be stressed enough. In the last couple of years, many state grant programs have been cut (with the rationale that since Pell grant amounts were going up, there was no need to worry). State university students have experienced tuition hikes, without the increase in institutional aid that private schools have given. State schools do not have the available alumni funds to make up cuts in aid.

    Community college students in some areas (mostly rural ones) have it worst of all, because they cannot even turn to federal student loans to make up their gaps, if Pell grants were cut. Many community colleges have opted out of the federal loan program. Working extra hours, or taking on another job is not a choice that most of these students have, because their schools are located in regions with high unemployment. A large number of prospective community college students will simply not go, if Pell grant money is cut.

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