"DECREASE IN PELL GRANTS CAUSES ADMISSION OF FEWER LOW-INCOME STUDENTS"
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
only 13.1 percent of their undergraduates Pell Grants.
are given to college students from families with annual
less than $40,000. In 2004-05, 14.3 percent of
these colleges received Pell Grants, which have endowments
There was a drop in low-income students attending the 39
public universities from 19.6 percent in 2004-05 to 18
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
colleges with endowments that are over
Financial need of college students is growing, but will
be enough to change the makeup of the student body of
and private institutions? Thomas G. Mortenson, a senior
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
when it comes to enrolling needy students."
These efforts will take time, according to administrators
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
Pell Grants, the change to the overall student body would
"More importantly," says Robert M. Shireman, director of
Institute for College Access and Success, "we should be
looking at the
trend of wealthy colleges in the context of the college
a whole." For example, between 2004-05 and 2006-07, Pell
for purchasing stood still and students that needed the
money only went
to two-year or for-profit colleges. And in this case, the
received Pell Grants at all public and private colleges
about seven percent.
Amherst, Holy Cross, and Williams Colleges; Princeton
the Universities of Richmond and Texas at Austin were
among a few colleges
that were surveyed that have made small increases in the
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
Pell Grants are awarded to a quarter of their students,
at the University of California at Los Angeles, and for
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
researchers to really study the data of how well colleges
low-income students. When cases like these happen, only
once in a 5
year term, the data can sometimes be misleading. For
who are not eligible for Pell Grants, such as adults and
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-
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
Stephen M. Farmer, assistant provost and director of
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
"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
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
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
to aid in recruiting students in rural and inner-city
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."