College battles high student poverty rate
By Joel Hulsey
THE NUMBER of Amarillo College students living at or below the poverty line continues to increase.
In 2010, 42 percent of students actively enrolled received a Pell Grant.
“When you talk poverty line, there are federal definitions for it,” said Danita McAnally, chief of planning and advancement. “At the college-level, the best definition is if a person has qualified for Pell.”
Last semester, 40 percent of AC students who applied for financial aid were accepted to receive a federal Pell Grant. Another 45 percent received some sort of need-based award. Eighty-five percent of the student body – 9, 825 students – was granted need-based financial aid last semester.
“When we look at our students as a cohort – a group of students that enter college at the same time – we find that our rates are closer to 60 percent to first time in college students which are receiving Pell,” said Kara Larkan-Skinner, director of institutional research and institutional effectiveness. “That is our indicator for poverty.”
Some courses are significant to the possibility of graduating or transferring for students on Pell Grants.
In 2010, 61.6 percent of Pell-students passed a gateway class – a class or classes taken for a specific major – compared to a 64.5 percent passing rate for non-Pell students.
The persistence rate in 2009 was 78.9 percent for students on Pell compared to 64.5 percent for non-Pell students.
“What we try to do at AC is put a complete wrap-around on them in every way possible,” McAnally said.
“First, we’re dealing with, ‘Have they received everything possible that they could receive?’”
A new, AC-only service is available to every poverty line student. Students can visit the financial aid office and request to have their information entered to receive additional help from a benefit bank.
Students can learn what they are eligible for so they can automatically receive awards.
Texas returns $2 billion to the federal government each year, which McAnally said should be used for student services.
“Another thing we do is we provide tutoring services,” she said. “We have found that tutoring is an effective way for students to get that extra time on-task with the subject matter.”
Multiple tutoring locations are available on campus, including the Math Outreach Center and the Writers’ Corner. McAnally encourages students to use these services as often as necessary.
“If we just know what their issue is, we can help them overcome that barricade,” McAnally said.
For more information on admissions, performance and grant statistics, call the Assessment and Development Department at (806) 371-5495.