Seeking Assistance: Who Gets Financial Aid at California Community Colleges
California community colleges (CCC) enroll nearly one-quarter of the nation’s community college students. Low fees and open-admission policies in this sector provide critical access to many students who otherwise might not attend college. This is particularly true of low-income students, at least one-quarter of all CCC students. Even though CCCs have the lowest average fees of any state two-year public system and a generous financial aid program to waive fees for low-income students, money is still a barrier to college access. Students must still find ways to pay for books and supplies, food, housing, and transportation costs. The federal Pell grant was designed to help very low-income students pay college expenses, but fewer than 230,000 degree-seeking students at CCCs receive them (about 10 percent). In 2006–07 students received an average Pell award of just under $2,300. In this study, we examine data on low-income community college students in California to determine who among them received Pell grants and why so many poor students apparently do not benefit from this program.