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Pilot Pell Grant Program to benefit Niagara Falls High School students

WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

The U.S. Education Department has selected Niagara County Community College as one of six SUNY campuses to run a pilot program for high school Pell Grants. NCCC will work in partnership with the Niagara Falls City School District. 

“The credits that they earned with us are transferable to any institution throughout the country,” said Monica Lopoyda, Assistant to the Vice President of Academic Affairs NCCC.

Starting this fall, for the next three years, 60 Niagara Falls High students will be selected to take a minimum of 12 college credits under the pilot high school Pell Grant program.

“Basically, the students are going to being by taking the required high school courses at Niagara Falls High School, then the school district will transport them to the Culinary Institute where they will take college credits,” explained Lopoyda.

This program is designed to allow students future career pathway choices in what are now considered high-demand fields, such as Hospitality and Tourism, Baking and Pastry Arts and Culinary. 

Normally a student is only eligible for a federal Pell Grant if they have a high school diploma or high school equivalency, but the new program provides a wave of funding for Niagara Falls high school seniors to gain college credit courses.

Jim Trimboli, Director of Financial Aid and Admissions at NCCC, tells WBFO it would provide a student a little more than $2,800 for the year.

“The maximum award, they would be considered half-time students, the maximum per semester would be $1,444.00,” said Trimboli.  

Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley
Niagara Falls High School students in a classroom.

Once the Falls seniors are enrolled they will receive a variety of student support services including career exploration, coaching and academic tutoring.

“They are monitored whether they’re attending those classes, if they’re passing those classes. We keep an eye on that if they’re making satisfactory academic progress here. We monitor that ever semester here at the college,” Trimboli explained.

Eligibility will be based on household income of the student's family.  

“Basically, a student who is eligible for the program must have an 85% average or the recommendations from one of the school administrators, so we are talking about high achieving students,” Lopoyda noted. 

NCCC is the only western New York college to be selected for the pilot program.

“In the long run, here, this is going to help accelerate students through the college process, earning college credits while they are still in high school,” remarked Trimboli. 

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