Financial Aid Packages Enable Talented, Disadvantaged Students to Get a Degree

An increase in Pell grant recipients at UConn is linked to policies supporting needy students.

The number of UConn students awarded Pell grants has risen 61.5 percent since 1993 – the seventh highest percentage increase in the nation among universities cited as “America’s Best” by U.S. News & World Report.

Pell grants are a federal student aid program that awards funding to students who lack the financial means to pay for their education.

<p>Students walk along a sidewalk near the Chemistry Building. Photo by Peter Morenus</p>
Students walk along a sidewalk near the Chemistry Building. Photo by Peter Morenus

According to Jean Main, director of student financial aid services at UConn, the increase is part of a national trend that is attributable to changes in the way the grant eligibility is calculated by the federal government, as well as to the structure of the financial aid packages offered by the University.

“This means that more and more talented students who are economically disadvantaged are able to attend the University of Connecticut,” Main says. “Above and beyond the national trend of more and larger Pell grants being awarded, UConn’s policies are also very friendly to this student population to begin with.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Pell grant recipients who earned degrees between 1996 and 2000 graduated in a shorter period of time than non-Pell grant recipients.

“This shows that the removal of financial obstacles for needy students allows them to focus on their education and attain a degree faster,” says Main.

In 1993, UConn had 1,938 Pell grant recipients; by 2009 the University had 3,419.

When a student applies for a Pell grant, the federal government determines the amount the student or their family should be able to contribute to the cost of their education. Based on that estimate – which falls anywhere between zero and $4,617 – the grants are awarded on a sliding scale. Students can be awarded up to $5,350 in a Pell grant for the academic year.

The University offers a package of grants and loans to help disadvantaged students afford an array of direct education expenses including tuition, fees, and room and board. For the neediest students, UConn covers 100 percent of their direct expenses.

While the state of Connecticut mandates that 15 percent of tuition revenue go to funding financial aid programs, UConn spends between 17 percent and 18 percent, with the result that a greater number of economically disadvantaged students are able to afford to attend the University.

“The fact that increasing numbers of these students can receive an education at UConn is a real point of pride for us,” says Main.