Ranking the Nation’s Most Selective Liberal Arts Colleges in Enrolling Low-Income Students

Over the past several weeks JBHE has reported the progress of our nation’s top-ranked universities in enrolling low-income students. Now we turn our attention to the highest-ranked liberal arts colleges.

It is important to note that in 2008-09, the most recent academic year for which Pell Grant data is available, the three liberal arts schools with the largest percentages of low-income students were women’s colleges. Five of the top seven in the percentage of low-income students on campus were women’s colleges. The women’s colleges that lead the nation’s highest-ranked liberal arts colleges in educating low-income students tend to have programs encouraging young single mothers to return to school to earn a college education. Undoubtedly, many of these women have low incomes and would readily qualify for federal Pell Grants.

Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, had the highest percentage of low-income students among the 30 highest-ranked liberal arts colleges. Mount Holyoke College and Barnard College ranked second and third.

Among the coeducational institutions, Amherst College and Williams College had the highest percentage of low-income students.

Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, had the lowest percentage of Pell Grant recipients among the 30 highest-ranked liberal arts colleges. At this school, only 4.5 percent of the undergraduates qualified for federal Pell Grants. At Davidson College, Colby College, Kenyon College, Bates Colleges, Colgate University, and Scripps College, fewer than 9 percent of the student body received federal Pell Grants.