My 16-year-old son has passed an ability-to-benefit (ATB) test at a
community college. He has been accepted has a regular student in a
qualifying program but has not graduated from high school. The college
is denying him the Federal Pell Grant because they are stating that he
is enrolled in high school. My position is that in Florida he has
passed the age of requirement to attend high school and his school
high will be over at the end of May (tenth grade). He has no statutory
requirement to attend high school in the fall. Therefore he does not
have to be enrolled in any high school. Therefore by the ATB test he
meets all the requirements to receive federal student financial
aid. He wants to go to college during the summer term. Then he can
decide if he wants to attend high school or college in the fall.
— Brian S.
Generally, students who are simultaneously enrolled in both high
school and college are not eligible for student financial aid for college.
Section 484(a)(1) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 [20 USC
1091(a)(1)] requires that a student must "not be enrolled in an
elementary or secondary school" in order to be eligible for federal
student aid for college. This requirement as was added by the Higher
Education Technical Amendments of 1991 (P.L. 102-26) effective for
periods of enrollment beginning on or after July 1, 1991. The
regulations at 34 CFR 668.32(b) parallel the statutory requirements.
Students who are simultaneously enrolled in high school and college,
regardless of whether through a formal dual enrollment program or
their own doing, are not eligible for federal student aid. This
requirement is in addition to the requirement that the student have
the academic qualifications to pursue a college degree, such as a high
school diploma, GED or a passing grade on an ability-to-benefit
test. In other words, there are two separate criteria, one relating to
dual enrollment and one relating to academic qualifications.
Satisfying the criteria concerning academic qualifications does not
necessarily mean that the student has also satisfied the requirements
concerning dual enrollment.
The following is an excerpt from page 1-5 of the 2010-11 Federal
Student Aid Handbook:
A student enrolled in elementary or secondary school is not eligible
for aid from the FSA programs, even if she is simultaneously enrolled
in an eligible college program. A student is considered to be enrolled
in secondary school if she is pursuing a high school diploma or if she
has completed the requirements for a diploma, has not yet received it,
and either she is taking college coursework for which her high school
gives credit or her high school still considers her to be enrolled
If a student is no longer enrolled in high school and also beyond the
age of compulsory school attendance in the state, he should be
eligible for federal student aid. Both conditions must be currently
met for the student to be eligible for federal student aid. Colleges
are required to award aid based on the student's current eligibility,
not the student's future eligibility.