Content in this article is contributed by:
The Chronicle of Higher Education



A Chronicle analysis of federal Pell Grant data showed a

in the number of undergraduates attending elite colleges.

five of the wealthiest private colleges in 2006-07
averaged giving

only 13.1 percent of their undergraduates Pell Grants. 
Pell Grants

are given to college students from families with annual
incomes of

less than $40,000.  In 2004-05, 14.3 percent of
undergraduates at

these colleges received Pell Grants, which have endowments
of over

$500 million.


There was a drop in low-income students attending the 39

public universities from 19.6 percent in 2004-05 to 18
percent in



Efforts have been made by 40-some public and private

to increase financial aid for low-income students, but the

is still happening.  On a good note, Congress has put more

towards improving its study of spending money, and policy
change of

colleges with endowments that are over


Financial need of college students is growing, but will
policy change

be enough to change the makeup of the student body of
these public

and private institutions?  Thomas G. Mortenson, a senior
scholar at

the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher

says he is afraid selective colleges are becoming "class

Also Mortenson states, "We have to ask if they’re pulling
their load

when it comes to enrolling needy students."


These efforts will take time, according to administrators
at these

colleges.  Two new classes of students were admitted
during the time

period examined by The Chronicle.   The 2004–5 academic
year was the

first year they reported on the share of Pell Grant
recipients at colleges.

Even if those two classes had much greater numbers of
students with

Pell Grants, the change to the overall student body would
still be

seemingly small.


"More importantly," says Robert M. Shireman, director of
the nonprofit

Institute for College Access and Success, "we should be
looking at the

trend of wealthy colleges in the context of the college
population as

a whole."  For example, between 2004-05 and 2006-07, Pell
Grant’s power

for purchasing stood still and students that needed the
money only went

to two-year or for-profit colleges.  And in this case, the
students who

received Pell Grants at all public and private colleges
decreased to

about seven percent.


Amherst, Holy Cross, and Williams Colleges; Princeton
University; and

the Universities of Richmond and Texas at Austin were
among a few colleges

that were surveyed that have made small increases in the
fraction of

low-income students they enroll. 


For example, some colleges make it a priority to award
Pell Grants to

low-income students.  At Florida State University and
Smith College,

Pell Grants are awarded to a quarter of their students,
35.2 percent

at the University of California at Los Angeles, and for
77.4 percent

at Berea College. 


The University of Delaware’s recipients of Pell Grants
declined from 9.8

percent in 2004-05 to 7.3 percent in 2006-07.  This
decline was inconsistent

with prior years.  In 2006-07 there was not only a decline
in Pell Grant

recipients, but also a decline in the number of students


The 2006-07 case with the University of Delaware makes it
hard for

researchers to really study the data of how well colleges
are serving

low-income students.  When cases like these happen, only
once in a 5

year term, the data can sometimes be misleading.  For
example, students

who are not eligible for Pell Grants, such as adults and
foreign students,

are included in the institutions numbers and could easily
distort the number

receiving the awards. 


Colleges and universities have different ways of reporting
how they disperse

the awards.  Fourteen percent of students were awarded
Pell Grants in 2006-07

at Pennsylvania State University on the flagship
University Park campus.

Pennsylvania has calculated the Pell percentage as going
to 21 percent of

undergraduates across a multi-campus system.


Sarah E. Turner, an associate professor of education and
economics at the

University of Virginia, says Pell eligibility tends to be
far higher among

non-traditional students than those dependent on their
families for financial

support.  Institutions such as the University of
Cincinnati, with a large

amount of non-traditional students, will look far better
using Pell ratios,

even if they possibly don’t provide better job
opportunities for recent high-

school graduates. 


Ms. Turner also notes that in some states, colleges will
have higher numbers

of high achieving students that need the money.  In such
instances, their Pell

numbers may reflect demographics as much as institutional


"Using one factor to determine how well a university
serves low-income students

is like trying to diagnose an illness by taking someone’s
temperature," says

Stephen M. Farmer, assistant provost and director of
undergraduate admissions

at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
"Pell, by itself, is not

enough to make a diagnosis."


Overall, Pell Grant numbers remain more consistent.  Even
those who differ over

methodology agree that low-income students continue to be
underrepresented at

elite institutions.


"No, we have not seen transformation change," Ms. Turner
says.  "It’s not like …

well, we’ve solved this problem–on to poverty in


Time is what it will take to increase numbers with the
competition for high-

achieving, low-income students.  Princeton is a prime
example.  In 2001, Princeton

announced that it would rid loans for undergraduates and
award grants instead.

When this announcement happened, it took time for the
number of students to

increase, says Robin A. Moscato, the university’s director
of undergraduate

financial aid.  Ms. Moscato says the numbers increased
gradually from 6.9

percent then to 10 percent in the current academic


"Colleges have to be more proactive than just implementing
a financial aid

program and waiting for people to show up with application
in hand," says

Donald E. Heller, a professor of education at Pennsylvania
State University

at University Park.


Colleges such as the University of Virginia, Harvard and
Amherst are putting

their efforts toward doing more than just providing more
money.  For example,

the University of Virginia hired a social worker to
navigate low-income families

through the student-aid process.  Harvard has contacted
community activists

to aid in recruiting students in rural and inner-city
neighborhoods.  Amherst

has recently built an addition to its admissions offices
to make room for new

staff members hired to help diversify its student body,
says Thomas H. Parker,

dean of admissions and financial aid.


Due to the credit crunch happening now, Yvonne B. Hubbard,
director of financial

aid services at Virginia, is concerned that recruiting
needy students might be a

challenge with the lack of student loans.


"We’re still fighting the ‘I can’t afford’ it battle," Ms.
Hubbard says.  "For

some of these kids, applying to a place like UVA is like
taking a leap of faith."


Until next week, all the best.

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