Students with Pell Grants are more likely to drop out than to graduate at many four-year colleges in the United States, according to a new report on social mobility and low-income student enrollment at four-year institutions from Education Reform Now, a progressive think tank that advocates for student and family interests.
The report, released today, identifies 614 four-year colleges where students receiving federal Pell Grants are more likely to graduate than they are to drop out and where federal loan repayment and default rates are better than the average four-year institution. Education Reform Now dubbed these colleges “social mobility elevators,” finding 90 of the top 100 are public institutions.
Pell Grants go to students who demonstrate exceptional financial need and are typically used as a proxy to identify enrollment of students from low-income backgrounds.
California State University, Long Beach, topped the think tank's list, followed by the University of Central Florida; California State University, Fullerton; the University of California, Riverside; and the University of California, Irvine.
Many highly selective institutions fell into the bottom half the think tank’s list, primarily due to small class sizes and low enrollment of students with Pell Grants. The University of Central Florida enrolls more students with Pell Grants than the 12 "Ivy-plus" institutions combined, the report said.
Only three for-profit colleges posted outcomes strong enough to be included in the rankings.
Of the private colleges that made the list, many had a religious affiliation. That said, some of the most prestigious religious colleges didn’t rank highly -- DePaul University was the closest to the top at spot 52.
“Georgetown and Notre Dame might be the most prestigious Catholic universities in the country, but their social mobility impact numbers fall far behind hundreds of secular colleges that do not share the Church’s mission to serve the poor,” the report said. Georgetown University was ranked at 283, and Notre Dame University was ranked at 355.