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Kirksville Daily Express: Sen. Roy Blunt touts Pell Grant during visit to Truman

May 02, 2018

One goal Truman State University sophomore Jake Hammond has for himself is to get through college without taking out any loans.

For a moment last summer, that goal was almost broken due to issues with financial aid.

“You know, it’s funny because I didn’t know the summer Pell Grant was going to be a thing last year or this past summer,” Hammond said. “My goal is to graduate Truman without taking out a loan. I want to do it debt free. I’m working and doing all that stuff.

“I had plans to take two classes over the summer last summer and I was on the phone with my mom, and I was like, ‘Mom, I’m broke. I don’t know what to do. I guess I’m going to have to take out a loan,’” he said. “I prayed about it and about an hour later I looked at my bank account and there just happened to be, I don’t remember the exact amount, but the Pell Grant had come in.

“I was ecstatic. That was super, super exciting.”

Hammond’s story about the Pell Grant was one of several shared with Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt during his visit to Truman State University on Wednesday.

Blunt is making several stops throughout the state to discuss the Pell Grant program. The federal program provides need-based funding to students to help pay for college.

Summer eligibility was eliminated from the program in 2012. Last year, the U.S. Congress backed the reintroduction of year-round Pell eligibility, which allowed students to use the funding to pay for summer courses.

“The elimination of the year-round Pell (Grant), I think, was an unfortunate step on the wrong direction but we’ve managed to step back in the right direction,” Blunt said.

“We think there will be about 20,000 more Missouri students in school this summer because of year-round Pell and about 1 million more American students in the country in school this summer because of year-round Pell.”

During a roundtable discussion, several Truman students, faculty and staff shared their stories about the availability of several financial aid programs, like the Pell Grant and McNair Scholarship programs.

“The Pell Grant has always given me the opportunity to stay in school because I had to wait until I was 25 because I couldn’t afford to go before I was 23 or 24,” Truman student Ashley White said.

“The Pell Grant has really allowed me to stay in school for the three years I’ve been in school and it will continue to let me stay in school three years later.”

Truman student and McNair scholar Nguyen Luong said she’s had to take out loans in the past but won’t have to for the upcoming school year.

“I’ve said this multiple times to McNair staff and faculty as well as to my peers, but McNair has been one of the most beneficial decisions I’ve made in my time in college,” Luong said. “McNair has given me opportunities that I’ve never dreamt of, as well as a system of support and community I don’t think I would have found elsewhere.”

Local educators also discussed the impact of financial aid programs on their students.

Kirksville R-III Superintendent Dr. Damon Kizzire said about 72 percent of Kirksville High School graduates go to college and about 15 percent of those student would not be allowed the opportunity without several financial aid programs.

“If it were not for these opportunities, think about how many fewer students we would have not having that opportunity to go on,” Kizzire said.

Artie Fowler, director of the Moberly Area Community College’s Higher Education Center in Kirksville, said about 75 percent of its students use some type of financial aid.

“It was pretty disheartening at times to tell a student that they weren’t going to have any money to go to school in the summer,” Fowler said. “Now, we don’t have to do that.”

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