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September 5, 2008
By Natalie Savidge
This past year, the University of Nevada, Reno continued efforts to recruit and assist underrepresented student populations on campus. Now, a new Pack Advantage program has been established to help ensure access to a university education for students from low-income families.
“The University has made the commitment that any Nevada resident, Pell student admitted and enrolled full time who files a FAFSA on time will have tuition, fees and books covered by our University for four years – as long as they remain Pell eligible and in good academic standing,” said Vice President for Student Services Shannon Ellis of the Pack Advantage program.
The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The Pell Grant program is a postsecondary, educational federal grant program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. Because of the high levels of need required to obtain a Pell Grant, award granting is used by researchers as a proxy for low-income student attendance and to indicate the economic diversity of the student body.
“The University is seeing a lot of ‘highs’ in its 134-year-old history, including (enrollment of) our greatest number of students with documented disabilities, students who are the first in their family to attend college, and we have more Pell-eligible students than ever before,” Ellis said.
The University enrolled 1,511 Pell recipients in fall 2007, the last year for which figures were available.
Students may use their grants at approximately 5,400 participating postsecondary institutions. Grant amounts are dependent on: the student's expected family contribution, the cost of attendance (as determined by the institution), the student's enrollment status (full-time or part-time), and whether the student attends for a full academic year or less. Students may not receive Pell Grant funds from more than one school at a time.
“The University has specific initiatives to cultivate underrepresented, college-going students and their families,” Ellis said. “And once students arrive on campus, we know that helping them to learn, persist and graduate is a critical piece of our work.”
Pack Advantage program gift aid is money earmarked from tuition to help low-income students cover the cost of tuition, fees and books.
“It’s so important for prospective, low-income students to understand the help available to pay for a university education,” said Ellen Houston, counselor coordinator for the campus’ Center for Student Cultural Diversity.
The Pell Grant program, originally known as the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant, was named after US. Sen. Claiborne Pell. Grants are awarded based on a financial-need formula determined by Congress using criteria submitted through the FAFSA. The Pell Grant is covered by legislation authorized through the Higher Education Act of 1965, which strengthened the education resources of colleges and universities and provided more financial assistance for students in postsecondary and higher education.
In July 2008, Congress passed a Higher Education Act reauthorization bill, which will be sent to the president for his signature. The bill, among other reforms, includes increasing the maximum Pell Grant award amount.
Ellis said that Houston and other University program directors are looking at how campus-based programs like Upward Bound and Dean’s Future Scholars can also assist prospective beneficiaries of the Pack Advantage program.
Many school systems are restructuring their educational programs to achieve the best results for increasingly diverse students with highly complex learning needs, including those with varied ethnic, linguistic, socioeconomic and developmental backgrounds.
The University of Nevada, Reno is the only institution in the state offering this type of program.
For more information on the Pack Advantage Program, contact the office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships at (775) 784-4666 or toll free at (877) 666-0014.