Report: Pell Grant Graduation Rates Depend on Colleges


According to a report from Education Trust, the typical graduation gap seen between students who receive Pell grants and those who do not is relatively small at individual institutions compared to nationwide data.

The report, “The Pell Partnership: Ensuring a Shared Responsibility for Low-Income Student Success,” serves as an argument against those who believe Pell grants are wasting taxpayer dollars or those who say low-income students are incapable of completing a college degree program.

Results of the report show that 51% of those who receive Pell grants graduate in comparison with 65% of non-Pell students.

However, that gap is much larger than the one seen between those who receive Pell grants and those who do not within the same institution, which was found to be just 5.7 percentage points.

According to the authors, those findings suggest individual schools are not doing all they can to help low-income students graduate college with a degree.  In addition, it suggests that high numbers of of students who receive Pell grants are enrolling at schools with low graduation rates.

“By closing existing gaps at the college level, especially the egregiously large gaps that exist in about one-third of four-year institutions, we can cut that gap in half,” said Andrew Nichols, director of higher education research and data analytics for Ed Trust and author of the report. “To go the remaining distance, though, we’ll have to take on the even more challenging matter of enrollment stratification, because where Pell students do and don’t enroll matters quite a bit.”

Nichols added that students who do not need as much financial assistance are more likely to attend highly selective schools and therefore have an increased likelihood of attaining a degree.

The report also takes a closer look at how individual schools play an increasing role in graduation rates for students who do receive Pell grants. The authors suggest that an evaluation of current support systems made available for low-income students be completed by individual schools to better help students graduate.

The federal program offers over $31.5 billion in tuition assistance to over 8.6 million low-income students each year.  The report was released just as Congress is considering ways to rewrite the federal higher education law known as the Higher Education Act, which covers the entire federal student loan system, including Pell grants, writes Lauren Camera for US News.

The report is based on a year-long study of Pell graduation rate data across 1,149 four-year public and private nonprofit colleges and universities.