Nearly three-quarters of top-tier colleges and universities across the country can admit more Pell Grant students than they’re currently accepting, a new report shows.
The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that “69 percent of the most selective private colleges ran average annual budget surpluses of $139 million over the last four years, but fewer than 20 percent of undergraduate students they admitted were Pell Grant recipients,” according to the Hoya.
Adding to that, the report determined that many Pell Grant students are “statistically qualified” to attend these universities.
The study’s authors believe that a goal of 20% Pell Grant students per admitted class is realistic for these institutions. Around 72,000 additional Pell Grant recipients would have to be admitted to nearly 350 colleges to realize that goal.
Recent attempts have been made to increase low-income representation in elite universities. Bipartisan federal legislation proposed in September 2016 by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) would require colleges with the lowest ratio of Pell Grant recipients to admit more low-income students. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, but never came to a vote.
[Study co-author Martin] Van Der Werf said such a federal bill has the potential to bring Pell-receiving student enrollment to about 20 percent in selective U.S. colleges.
Increasing the amount of low-income students at selective colleges and universities would allow for increased access to better academic resources, higher graduation rates and greater post-graduation earning potential, as well as increased equality across the socio-economic spectrum, according to Van Der Wertf.
“If selective colleges enrolled more Pell Grant recipients, a high-quality postsecondary education would be spread across a broader group of students, instead of preserving elite educations for students who, for the most part, are already elite,” Van Der Werf wrote.
Van Der Werf points out that some of the nation’s most elite colleges, including Columbia, Amherst and UNC Chapel Hill have more than 20% Pell Grant recipients among undergraduates. In the 2014-15 school year, about 13% of Georgetown students received Pell Grants.