The colleges that support low-income students best

The Obama administration hopes to spur more institutions to better serve Pell Grant recipients

The Education Department issued a report Thursday ranking the colleges and universities that excel at enrolling and graduating Pell Grant recipients. 

For the first time, institutions are being scored on the number of Pell Grant recipients they enroll, and the proportion of those students who actually attain degrees. The Obama administration hopes making such data public will encourage schools to admit more low-income students and help them graduate.

In a statement, U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr. said, "Although the percentage of 23-year-olds with some college experience has increased considerably, their likelihood of graduating strongly correlates to income or racial background, which means that we must shift our attention toward the more essential metric of success: degree attainment."

Among public four-year institutions, those that best serve Pell Grant recipients include:

  • California State University-Stanislaus (58% Pell Grant recipients, with 53% graduating in six years);
  • Bernard M. Baruch College of the City University of New York (45% Pell Grant recipients, with 69% graduating in six years);
  • Florida International University (58% Pell Grant recipients, with 53% graduating in six years);
  • Georgia State University (51% Pell Grant recipients, with 53% graduating in six years); and
  • Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (45% Pell Grant recipients, with 53% graduating in six years.)

Among private, nonprofit four-year institutions, those that best serve Pell Grant recipients include:

  • Agnes Scott College (45% Pell Grant recipients, with 71% graduating in six years);
  • Blue Mountain College (53% Pell Grant recipients, with 55% graduating in six years);
  • California Baptist University (48% Pell Grant recipients, with 63% graduating in six years);
  • Converse College (45% Pell Grant recipients, with 53% graduating in six years); and
  • Howard University (45% Pell Grant recipients, with 54% graduating in six years). 

Blog post: Why do fiscally conscientious students default on their loans?

The report did not list the colleges and universities that graduate the fewest Pell Grant recipients. However, government data provided on request show that these schools include:

  • University of Maine at Augusta (57% Pell Grant recipients, with 9% graduating);
  • Franklin University (47% Pell Grant recipients, with 11% graduating); and
  • Bluefield State College (59% Pell Grant recipients, with 12% graduating).

The administration has also proposed $5.7 billion in financial bonuses over a ten-year period to be shared among the top-performing schools. However, the proposal is part of the president's 2017 budget request and is subject to congressional approval (Marcus, Hechinger Report/PBS NewsHour, 3/25); (Douglas-Gabriel, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 3/24). 


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