Bustos pushes for year-round federal school grants

May 9, 2013

To help them complete their education, students should be able to attend college year-round. And that's the goal of a bill introduced Thursday by Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos - the Access to Education and Training Act.

 Currently a popular federal financial aid program, Pell Grants, cannot be used for summer classes, only fall and spring. Bustos says students should be able to use the grants, and go to school during the summer too. 

  “They’re enrolled in training courses that take place over the course of an entire year.  What our bill would do then is, these students, who benefit really more than anybody because their non-traditional students who want to complete their courses faster, simply so they can get back to the workforce,” Bustos says.

 During a recent tour of the 7 community colleges in her 17th district, Bustos says students and staff both told her the grant program isn't flexible enough. 

 Thomas Baynum is president of Black Hawk College in Moline and Kewanee. He says since the summer grant restriction went into effect, the number of recipients at his college has dropped 8 per cent per year. And it's a critical problem for students enrolled in programs such as welding, auto mechanics, and nursing. 

 “Nursing and such classes, it means students will, instead of finishing in one year, need to take two semesters of courses and then return in the following fall and it delays graduation either a semester or sometimes an entire year,” Baynum says. Baynum and Bustos agree the Access to Education and Training bill would help not just Black Hawk College, but students at colleges across the country.