Christopher Germosen will be a sophomore this fall at the University of Rhode Island, where he’s on track to complete the final courses he needs to get into the College of Engineering. By spring, he will be a mechanical engineering major with a focus in robotics – an interest sparked when he was a student at Providence Career and Technical Academy.
But getting to college involved sacrifices. “Receiving the Pell Grant is the reason that I attend college,” he said. “At first college was a reach for me. My parents weren’t too sure that they would be able to send me to college because of the cost. I am the first from my immediate family to attend college. My parents and I carefully looked over all the grants and scholarships I received and decided that we would sacrifice what we had to in order for me to attend college. College is so important to me because without it I can’t pursue the career I wish to have.”
Even with his maximum Pell award and other scholarships, he will graduate with $24,000 in debt plus interest.
“There is a big gap between my financial aid and the rest of my tuition. I have earned some scholarships to help close that gap but still have a good amount of money to pay,” he said. “The way my family helps me cover that is by taking out loans. I am obligated to take out $6,000 in loans each year.”
The Onward We Learn is a member of the National College Attainment Network, which is advocating that Congress double the amount of the maximum Pell award to $12,690 per year in the next COVID relief package. This would cover about 50 percent of the cost of attending a public four-year college like URI.
The maximum Pell Grant right now covers roughly 28% of the average cost of tuition, fees and living expenses for a four-year public university versus 79% at its historic high in 1975-76. Germosen said he thinks this is unfair.
“It’s set up for us to not pursue a higher education when we all should. Pursuing a higher education opens up doors we thought couldn’t be opened; it puts us in a great position to be successful,” he said.
He said the fear of debt has a huge impact on students’ college choices. “Speaking from experience, the debt is on my mind every day, especially when I receive my E-bill for the semester,” he said. “I have a few friends that don’t attend college because of the cost. Instead, they stopped their education after high school and got a full-time job.”
If Congress doubled the maximum Pell award, Germosen thinks more students would attend college. “The reason people set out to do other things, for example find a full-time job after high school, is because they can’t afford to go to college. Doubling the Pell Grant would change a lot of lives for the better. It would give a choice to people that they thought they never had.”