‘Ability to benefit’ students lose federal aid

College doors will shut for the neediest students on July 1, when federal aid is cut to would-be students who lack a high school diploma or GED. Currently, these students can take a basic skills test to prove their “ability to benefit” from college classes or successfully complete six credits. The new federal budget cuts off aid to these students to save Pell Grant money, notes Inside Higher Ed.

College administrators say they worry the new policy will shut out older students seeking training to find a new job, immigrants, and students in states where money for basic adult education has been cut in budget crises.

Either those students will turn to riskier private loans, they say, or — more likely — they’ll just give up on pursuing higher education.

Community colleges and for-profit colleges enroll the most “ability to benefit” students, though the total amounts to only 1 percent of the community college population. The new policy “runs counter to the missions of many of our colleges,” said David Baime, vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.

Only a third of high school dropouts without a GED earned a college credential in six years, according to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics. That’s no worse than students who’d completed a GED.

“Ability to benefit” students are more likely to default on student loans. As a result two major for-profit educators, Kaplan and Corinthian Colleges, no longer enroll “ability to benefit” students.


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