50 years in, Pell Grants continue to change lives at UTA

“Without a Pell Grant, I never would have ended up in college”

Thursday, Jun 23, 2022 • Jeff Carlton : Contact

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Coming out of high school in Southlake, Texas, Edmund Miguel Mattler knew he had the grades and the work ethic to attend and succeed in college. What he didn’t have were the financial resources.

With an expected family contribution of $0, little savings and no transportation, he wasn’t sure how he could pay for college or even get to his classes.

Mattler said a college education would have been out of reach without a Pell Grant, the nation’s largest federal grant program offered to undergraduates from low-income households. Instead, the senior accounting major at The University of Texas at Arlington is set to graduate in December and already works as a tax accounting intern with a private equity firm.

“Without a Pell Grant, I never would have ended up in college,” Mattler said. “I had the academic background and was good in school, but my parents were never well off financially. It was daunting.”

The federal Pell Grant program, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month, has helped more than 80 million Americans go to college since its creation in 1972. The program currently aids more than 7 million students, with about 90% of Pell Grant dollars going to those with family incomes below $50,000.

In the 2021-22 academic year, UTA disbursed more than $58 million in Pell Grant funds to nearly 13,700 undergraduates.

UTA has other programs designed to assist financially strapped undergraduates, including its newly announced Blaze Forward program. It will cover 100% of tuition and mandatory fees for undergraduate students who meet all eligibility requirements and are from families with adjusted gross incomes up to $85,000.

“A key part of our mission is to ensure that Texans from all backgrounds are able to access the educational opportunities of a Tier One institution like UT Arlington,” UTA President Jennifer Cowley said. “Programs like Blaze Forward and Pell Grants are essential for our students, as they help thousands of Mavericks attend UTA and earn their degrees.”

Mattler is one such student. He followed his parents from North Texas to the Houston area after graduating high school and spent a year cleaning movie theaters and working as a waiter and busboy to save money. He also took classes at Houston Community College before transferring to UTA.

Between the Pell Grant, the money he saved and the wages he earned tending bar and waiting tables 30 hours a week, Mattler was able to cover tuition and expenses at UTA. He also landed a prestigious internship and found a network of friends in Delta Tau Delta, where he serves as director of finance.

After graduation, Mattler plans to work in private equity and then attend graduate school in accounting so he can become a certified public accountant. Thanks to the financial assistance of the Pell Grant program, he says he never paid more than about $1,000 out of pocket in any semester.

“Without the Pell Grant program, I would either have crippling amounts of debt or never would have gone through with finishing college,” he said. “Instead, I’m about to graduate, I’m getting good internship experience and I’m getting ready to transition into a career.”