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Selective Colleges Take Fewer Low-Income Students, According to a New Report

Less than 20 percent of students at top-tier schools are Pell Grant recipients.
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Though thousands of Pell Grant recipients are qualified to attend selective colleges, the majority go to schools with graduation rates of under 50 percent, according to a report released Tuesday by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

The report found that, even though many of the country’s most selective schools operate with a budget surplus of over $100 million, less than 20 percent of their students are Pell Grant recipients. An earlier study from the Equality of Opportunity Project also found that “Ivy League colleges have more students from the top 1% than the bottom 50% of the income distribution.” More than half of students at most colleges and universities receive Pell Grants, and tens of thousands of recipients score high enough on standardized tests to attend selective schools.

“Just as colleges are stratified by race, they are stratified by class,” the Georgetown report states.

Pell Grants offer low-income students a small amount — under $6,000 per year — of undergraduate financial aid. Thirty-eight percent of undergraduates received Pell Grants in the 2014–15 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Recipients are more likely to be female, non-white, or first-generation college students.

“Highly-qualified Pell Grant students are being turned away from the opportunity for an elite college education, which is more and more open only to the wealthy,” the Georgetown study’s lead researcher Anthony P. Carnevale said in a statement.