The Pell Grant and the American Dream

Just the other day I wrote about how allowing students to pay more for high-demand classes is contrary to the mission of the community college (Slamming Shut the Door). Then I said, “allowing those with money to skip ahead of those without is wrong; it isn’t fair. It’s downright un-American. And it certainly isn’t what community colleges should do. It’s not who we are.”

Access to education and the opportunity for upward mobility is the American Dream. Which is why limiting access to post-secondary education based on money is wrong. So not only is the California bill I previously mentioned wrong but so is this idea proposing that Pell Grants shouldn’t be offered to students who need remediation.

Actually, this idea has so many problems I don’t even know where to begin.

Developmental (also sometimes referred to as remedial) educational has been getting a lot of flak lately. Complete College America keeps telling everybody how much it doesn’t work. Of course, their ideal solution is to axe it entirely. Any college instructor who has recently read the essay of a developmental English  student–or attempted to explain simple pre-Algebra (like converting inches to centimeters) knows that getting rid of remedial coursework is out of the question. Students are coming to us unprepared. Yes, some of those students are coming from right out of high school. And yeah, that’s unacceptable. But as the kids say now, it is what it is. Denying Pell Grants to academically under-prepared students is not going to fix all the problems with our ineffective K-12 system. And we can’t punish those students because the system–the one for which we are responsible–failed them.

And then there are all the students who are not coming straight out of high school. They are people who’ve been out of school for 5, 10, 15 years–and are back to gain employment, earn more money, get a promotion, start a new career–get their American Dream started. Sure, they have some catching up to do–but does that mean we turn them away? No. Yet, that’s exactly what denying them Pell funds would be: no money, need remediation? Tough stuff.

As an educator working in a system where student success is more and more often being measured by graduation rates, I oppose this idea because I know what the inevitable effect will be: lowering academic standards to ensure completion. And this is exactly the reason those high school graduates need remediation in the first place!

Finally, what everyone keeps calling “remediation” is so much more: developmental education is about promoting the cognitive and affective growth of students.  It’s about effectively transitioning students into the world of college. Because most of the students we see don’t just have academic weaknesses. They lack not just the knowledge but the attitudes and behaviors necessary to succeed. In developmental education, we focus on the holistic needs of students: the intellectual, social, and emotional growth and development of all learners, at all levels of the learning continuum.   And our students should not be denied that because they cannot afford the cost of that learning experience. They should have equal access to Financial Aid, equal access to education, and equal access to the opportunity for the American Dream.

Please be advised, as always, that this is just my one lonely opinion as explained in the disclaimer.


Filed under Community College, Developmental Education, Higher Ed, My Opinion, Social Problems

2 responses to “The Pell Grant and the American Dream

  1. Pingback: Setting the Bar Too Low? | Wider than the Sky

  2. Pingback: We are the community college–Democracy’s college. | Wider than the Sky

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