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College & Workforce Readiness

Low-Income Students Don’t Gain Ground at High-End Colleges

By Caralee J. Adams — March 29, 2011 1 min read

Low-income students make up just 15 percent of students at elite private colleges and flagship public universities—a number that has remained flat in recent years, despite efforts to boost the socioeconomic diversity of students, according to new findings.

The Chronicle of Higher Education. looked at the country’s wealthiest colleges, as defined by those with the 50 largest endowments, and the number of students on those campuses who received federal Pell Grants. The percentages were relatively unchanged from 2004-05 to 2008-09. (Most students who receive Pell Grants come from families whose annual household income is less than $30,000.)

On 18 campuses, there were gains among Pell Grant recipients. For example, Williams College experienced a 4.4 percent increase and the University of Richmond had a 3.3 percent increase.

However, 31 schools had fewer students with Pell Grants on campus and one college, Grinnell College, had no change. At Penn State, Pell recipients declined by 1.9 percent from 2004-05 to 2008-09.

The school most welcoming to low-income students: the University of California, Los Angeles, had the highest Pell percentage at 30.7 percent. The school with the fewest Pell Grant students: Washington University in St. Louis, with 5.7 percent.

Many colleges funneled money into financial aid and special programs in recent years to attract low-income students, but the Chronicle calls into question the effectiveness of those efforts.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.