- On average, top-quartile schools take in 29.3% Pell, while bottom-quartile schools take in 48.6% Pell.
- Among the 81 schools in which at least half of the student body received Pell grants, only three are in the top quartile of our mobility ranking, and just 14 are in the top half.
- Of the 252 four-year public institutions that have Pell enrollment greater than the mean (38.2%):
- Only 41 schools (16.3%) graduated at least half of their first-time, full-time students within six years;
- Only 43 schools (17.1%) saw more than two-thirds of their loan-holding students earning more than a high school graduate six years after enrollment; and,
- A mere 91 schools (36.1%) have loan repayment rates above the average (77.8%) three years out.
Schools that take in high shares of students coming from low- and moderate-income backgrounds e outcomes as schools who take in only a handful of low-income students each year. That principle guides the way we distribute federal resources to K-12 schools through Title I funding, which is intended to support schools with higher concentrations of students in poverty. And while colleges that are willing to take in a high proportion of Pell students deserve support and recognition if they are delivering good outcomes for those students, we must also ensure institutions are not making this population of students worse off by saddling them with debt and no degree to show for it.
There are notable exceptions.
Luckily there are a number of high-quality public institutions showing that success is possible by achieving good outcomes with a high proportion of Pell students. In fact, 11 of the schools in the top decile of our mobility metric take in an above-average number of Pell students (38.2%) each year.
And as noted above in Finding 1, there are also a handful of schools-almost all from the University of California system-that are taking in an above-average number of Pell students and are graduating more than two-thirds of their first-time, full-time students each year. These schools illustrate that it is possible to do well with high concentrations of Pell students-and they should motivate others to do better.
Other than buying a home and saving for retirement, financing a college education is often the biggest investments a person makes throughout the course of his or her lifetime. And just like any other major purchase, students and their families expect the price of an education to reflect the quality they receive. Sadly, that assumption is simply not applicable in our higher education system.
A completely broken marketplace.
Similar to our findings at four-year private, non-profit institutions, the College Scorecard reveals that the net price a student pays for a public college has almost no bearing on the outcomes they can expect to receive from that institution. To start, the average net price at four-year public institutions overall is $7,000 cheaper than their private, non-profit peers. However, when the public schools are compared to each other, it becomes clear that low- and moderate-income students pay virtually the same price at a public college regardless of whether they attend a top-quartile school or a bottom-quartile school-a sign that the marketplace is broken. Specifically, when looking at the average net price (the out-of-pocket cost a student actually pays once financial aid is factored in) of public institutions for students earning less than $0-$48,000/year, we found:
- The average net tuition at four-year public institutions in the top quartile of our mobility metric was $10,176 compared to $10,762 for four-year public schools in the bottom quartile.