Pell Grant's Vital Role in Lifting Up Mississippi


Recent years have seen significant growth in the federal government’s foundational program to provide for access to college, the Pell Grant program. Nationally, the number of Pell participants have increased by 50% since 2008, from 6 million to 9 million students. This reflects a federal commitment to serve a fast-growing traditional-aged population—there were one million more Americans ages 18 to 24 years old in 2012 than in 2009. For Mississippi students and families, and community colleges, the timing of these increases could not have been better, as the state entered a long recession.

The National Bureau of Economic Research, the federal agency that determines when recessions start and end, affixes June 2007 as the recession’s start. In July of 2007, the unemployment rate was above 5% in just 12 states; by July of 2009 it was below 5% in only 3. The “Great Recession” produced double-digit statewide unemployment rates in Mississippi. In October 2012, Mississippi’s statewide unemployment rate of 9.2% was well above the 7.8% national average.4 Only the northeast and coastal regions have lower rates.