African Americans and Pell Grant Student Success

About one third of all undergraduate college students in the United States receive federal Pell Grants that are reserved for low-income students. But about 55 percent of all Black students receive Pell Grants. Thus, Blacks make up a disproportionate percentage of Pell Grant recipients compared to their share of total enrollments in higher education. This, of course, is due to the fact that Black households have a median income that is 60 percent of the median income of White households and Black households posses about one tenth of the wealth of White households, on average.

The federal government spends more than $30 billion each year on the Pell Grant program. A new report from the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Third Way finds that after six years, only 49 percent of first-time, full-time Pell Grant recipients earned a bachelor’s degree at the institution where they started their college career. This is 18 percentage points lower than the graduation rate for students who did not receive Pell Grants.

Only 47 percent of higher education institutions graduated at least half of the Pell Grant students who initially enrolled. More than 200 institutions had Pell Grant student graduation rates lower than 25 percent. Of the more than 60,000 Pell Grant students initially enrolled at these institutions combined, only 9,904 of them (16 percent) graduated within six years.

The University of California System has shown considerable success in graduating Pell Grant recipients. In fact the top seven educational institutions with the highest graduation rates for Pell Grant students are all campuses of the University of California.

The full report, The Pell Divide: How Four-Year Institutions are Failing to Graduate Low- and Moderate-Income Students, may be downloaded by clicking here.

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