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Wartburg ranked seventh in graduating Pell grant students

Pell Grant
Kelli Miller talks to Financial Aid. She is one of about 500 students at Wartburg who receive Pell grants. — Emily Novotny/TRUMPET

Wartburg is ranked seventh out of 341 colleges and universities in the nation for successfully graduating Pell grant students, according to U.S. News.

Wartburg is part of the over-performers list, meaning the college has a higher percentage of Pell grant students graduating at a six-year or less graduation rate than non-Pell grant students.

At Wartburg, 70 percent of Pell grant students graduate within a six-year period, which was the rate used to analyze all colleges and universities across the county. Sixty-three percent of non-Pell grant students graduated in the same period.

A six-year graduation rate is the average amount of time it takes students to graduate at universities and colleges in the U.S. Students that entered school in 2005 and graduated in six or less years were factored into the data.

Jen Sassman, Director of Financial Aid, said last year 496 students received Pell grants, making up roughly 27 percent of the student population.

“It’s an encouraging message,” Sassman said of the U.S. News ranking. “We accept students based on academic ability and personal experience, not how easily they can pay.”

The Pell grant program provides federal aid to students from lower-income households, usually with family incomes of less than $20,000, according to U.S. News. Students apply and can receive up to $5,550, but grant amounts are given based on financial need, cost of school attendance and status as a full- or part-time student. These grants do not have to be repaid.

Kelli Miller said she would not be able to attend Wartburg without the Pell grant.

“It really helps with my finances and I can focus on school more. Paying for school is enough of a stress, even that little bit is a weight off my shoulders,” Miller said.

Sassman said the number of Pell grant students at Wartburg adds to the economic diversity.

“It’s always been our philosophy to be an open door,” Sassman said.

Miller thinks a presence of lower-income students helps others learn about different people.

“If it was just people that could pay out of pocket than diversity would be zero,” Miller said. “You don’t learn if people around you are just like you.”

Sassman said Wartburg is a strong advocate of the Pell grant program and the college encourages students to do the same. She said legislators like to hear from students more than college staff.

Miller said the Pell grant program provides opportunities for people that wouldn’t have had them otherwise.

“Coming from a family that receives Pell grants, it instills a notion of hard work in you,” Miller said. “It’s a privilege to be here and I’m really fortunate so I need to succeed to make it worth it, otherwise it was all a waste.”

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