Monday, July 6, 2015

Low-Income Students and Pell Recipients Underrepresented at Top Colleges

The concept of "undermatching" has gained a lot of attention in the media. That is, high-achieving students from low-income students are less likely to apply to (or even enroll in) highly selective colleges and universities. This phenomenon has major consequences: it isolates lower-income students from opportunities they lead to upward mobility-- higher salaries and expanded social networks with students from privileged backgrounds. Furthermore, the value of the Pell Grant has eroded over the decades as the cost of tuition has skyrocketed. A Pell Grant Pell is a partial scholarship provided by the federal government up to $5,775 awarded to students from the lower 40 percent of American household incomes. The future of the Pell Grant is precarious because the amount alone does not cover tuition and fees at top institutions. We need better policies that ensure that lower-income students have access to the same educational opportunities (and the means to achieve them). Otherwise, low-income students are being further left behind.

From the Hechinger Report:

Pell Grants were created by the Johnson Administration through the Higher Education Act of 1965 to encourage colleges to provide ladders of educational opportunity that would help both low-income students and our larger society.

Sadly, 50 years later, the value of the Pell Grants has eroded greatly, and lower income students are dramatically underrepresented at America’s finest institutions — from Ivies to state flagship institutions to top private colleges — where the graduation rates are highest and the financial aid packages strongest. One study showed that only 14 percent of American undergraduates at the top 250 institutions come from families making less than $50,000 per year.

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