College attendance and completion rates for poor youth remain a strategically important problem for the U.S. if it is going to remain competitive in a global economy. One of the major barriers to college attendance and graduation is financial. Far too many families believe with justifiable reasons that they cannot afford to send their children to college.
The affordability question is exacerbated by the fact that concrete college costs arrive at the end of high school and is available only to those who complete a complex financial aid application.
To address a possible solution to the problem Kelchen and Goldrick-Rab (2012) studied the feasibility of removing to a large extent the affordability problem by “using a simplified eligibility process to make an early commitment of the full Pell Grant to 8th graders from needy families.” The results are encouraging:
“We find that the proposed program would be well-targeted, with fewer than one in ten students qualifying for the program not receiving a Pell Grant under current rules. We use a Monte Carlo simulation to estimate the net fiscal impacts of the program. We find that in the median simulation, Pell program costs would grow by approximately $1.5 billion annually and the benefits would exceed the costs by approximately $600 million per year.”
Kelchen, Robert, and Goldrick-Rab, Sara. (2012) Accelerating College Knowledge: Examining the Feasibility of a Targeted Early Commitment Pell Grant Program.