Education, Givers

With the rug pulled out from many low-income students Marygrove helps them get their degree


Imagine you are a student attending college with a Pell Grant and then legislation is passed in Washington changing the rules. You can no longer afford school. It looks like the rug was pulled out from under you and all your work … and your ability to graduate on time … may be for naught.  This is not a very comforting reality for many students.

Fortunately for its students, Marygrove College is one of a handful of private colleges helping take care of its own in light of this new legislation. New Pell Grant restrictions went into effect in July that changed the household income requirements, scaled back the number of funded semesters and disproportionately affected lower income students.

At Marygrove 150 students were directly affected and were faced with putting their college dreams on hold because of an inability to pay. Thanks to Marygrove and a pledge from Nan McDonough, a ’64 graduate and a member of the college’s board of trustees, these students will be able to realize those dreams.  McDonough will match dollar for dollar all donations made by Marygrove alumni during its fall appeal.

“This tremendously generous gift to support our work over the next two years represents the largest single commitment of support from a living donor in Marygrove’s history,” said Marygrove President David Fike. “I am humbled by the generosity and confidence conveyed by Nan’s gift as well as by the growing support of alumni and friends (of the college). Nan and our alumni and friends embody what it means to be an urban leader.”

Marygrove has made it a mission to support these students and has developed a funding strategy to help close the gap for students coming up short before completing their degree. Through this strategy it will fund the loss of Pell grants for up to the equivalent of two full time academic years, contingent upon students developing a degree completion Plan of Work with their academic advisor. It estimates it will cost between $1million and $1.5 million over the next two years to support these students.

“We see these steps as a natural response, and in keeping with our urban leadership mission,” Fike said. “We want our students to know that we lead by example, and that our mission is much more than words on paper.”

This is not the first time Marygrove has taken up the cause of low income students.

Fike helped form “Yes We Must Coalition,” a group of independent colleges and universities on the national level whose enrollment comprises a majority of Pell students. The group met with the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and contacted representatives in Congress in hopes of educating them about how the Pell Grant’s policy changes impact students.

Working alongside The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, The Center for Law and Policy and The Education Trust,  “Yes We Must Coalition’’ is urging lawmakers to make changes to the legislation. They want Congress to either phase in the new rules so the time limit is known to both schools and students when their academic career begins or grandfather in those who are three semesters away from completion.

For those of you who don’t know a lot about Marygrove College, it was founded by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) in 1905. The main campus is situated on 53 wooded acres in northwest Detroit. You can find out more on its website.

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