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Rep. Welch Wants Flexibility For College Aid Grants

Congressman Peter Welch wants college students to be able to use federal financial aid year-round. Welch met with students and college administrations Friday at the Community College of Vermont in Winooski to discuss his pending legislation for Pell Grants. 

Currently, students can only use the Pell Grant during the fall and spring semesters. Welch’s legislation would allow them to use the grant in the summer as well. He said right now, the grant is inflexible, and makes it hard for students who want to graduate in less than four years.

"I think we should have flexibility so students on their own schedules, where they're working as well as going to school, could access the Pell Grant that they're ultimately going to be able to get," he said.

School administrators at the roundtable discussion spoke to the legislation’s potential benefits to students, including Pam Chisholm, the dean of enrollment services at CCV.

"I work at other colleges where they’d ask me, do you get the summer off -- I’m like, uh, no. We don’t even ask that question here," she said.

She said about 4,000 students at CCV continue to take classes in the summer. She added the grant could allow those students to keep their momentum and reduce their borrowing during that time.

That could save a lot of costs and time for first-year student Dominic Eneji, who studies neuroscience. He currently works two jobs in addition to the grant to keep up with his tuition fees. And to become a neurosurgeon "takes 15 to 17 years to reach that position," he says. "And with summer classes that cuts that almost in half."

The legislation is currently under review in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.