The U.S. Department of Education invited Leeward Community College to be one of only 44 postsecondary institutions nationwide to participate in an experiment that—for the first time—allows high school students taking college-credit courses to access Federal Pell Grants. Leeward CC is the only higher education institution in the State of Hawaiʻi selected for the project. Pell grants are for qualifying low-income individuals and do not have to be repaid.
The federal project seeks to expand college access through dual enrollment programs, such as early college, in which students take college courses while enrolled in high school. Dual enrollment is a promising approach to improve academic outcomes for students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds.
Leeward CC is a leader in dual enrollment programs, coordinating Early College, JumpStart, Running Start and Early Admit options. These programs have grown dramatically, totaling more that 500 high school participants in spring 2016. Leeward’s Early College program alone, where college courses are offered at the high school campuses, has witnessed more than 1,000 percent increase in less than four years, with 41 students enrolled in fall 2012 and 460 in spring 2016.
The participation in the federal Pell Grant experiment will enable an additional 30 students per year from the partnering high schools—Waipahu, Campbell and Waiʻanae—to participate in Leeward’s Early College program. With the expansion of the Early College partnership, students will be able to choose and pursue formal programs of study and then access the courses relevant to those degree programs.
“We are incredibly proud that Leeward was selected by the U.S. Department of Education as one of just 44 innovative institutions across the country that will pioneer this gamechanger for our nation,” said UH System President David Lassner.