Pell grants at the University of California
Increasing college attainment in California hinges upon the extent to which its educational institutions can continue to provide college access to people that otherwise couldn’t attend. The Pell grant is one major way the state is aided in providing this sort of access – up to $5,650 dollars per student per year, to use at any participating school in the U.S. As of 2010, there were more than 70,000 University of California (UC) undergraduate students receiving such aid, almost four in ten of all undergraduates; which amounts to more than $350 million in financial aid for some of California’s poorest and most qualified students.
So what kinds of outcomes is that support yielding? Very little is known about the propensity of these students to persist and ultimately graduate, and how other factors – demographic and institution-specific – mitigate this relationship. In an effort to better understand these dynamics, California Competes has partnered with the University of California’s Office of the President to analyze persistence and completion rates of the 37,461 freshmen who entered the UC system in the fall of 2006.
About one-quarter of those students received a Pell grant their first year, and more than one-third received a Pell grant at least one year during their course of study at UC. Students receiving Pell grants dropout in the first two years at similar rates as their non-Pell counterparts, but their 4-year graduation rates are significantly lower – as much as 25%, even when controlling for student characteristics.
The study was authored by California Competes’ Charles Hatcher, and Tongshan Chang, a Senior Researcher at UCOP. The findings will be presented at the annual meeting of the California Association for Institutional Research (CAIR) in Napa this week.
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