Ask a Scholar: Graduation Rates with Pell Grants

Matthew Denhart

Dear Ask a Scholar,  

Has there been a report made comparing graduation rates with and without Pell Grants?

Landon Estay

Answered by Matthew Denhart, Administrative Director at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP). He has co-authored several studies, ranging in topics from intercollegiate athletics to higher education in the states of Texas, Iowa and Michigan. His writings have appeared in The Wall Street Journaland

The federal government does not collect Pell Grant specific graduation rate data, despite spending over $28 billion on the Pell program in 2009-10. A 2002 study,[1] using nationally representative survey data from the 1996 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study, did compare the bachelor degree attainment rates between Pell Grant recipients and low- and middle-income nonrecipients who had similar SAT/ACT scores and had taken similarly rigorous courses in high school.

This analysis found that 46% of Pell recipients had received a Bachelor's degree within 6 years, compared to 51% of comparable non-recipients at 4-year public institutions. At 4-year private institutions, 56% of Pell recipients had received a BA within 6 years while 68% of non-recipients did the same. A more recent National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report[2] touches on the topic of the outcomes of Pell Grant students but does not provide specific data on graduation rates for those students.

* * *

About “Ask a Scholar”

Have a question Wikipedia can’t answer? We’ll match your question to a scholar with an answer. 

Questions submitted to “Ask a Scholar” should call for educated judgment rather than facts that can be found easily with an internet search. We especially welcome questions that provide professors the occasion to draw erudite distinctions and incorporate mention of matters you had no idea were connected to the topic at hand. Simply email NAS or submit questions via Intellectual Takeout's Ask the Professor feature. We'll field your question to a scholar and get back to you with the answer as soon as possible.  

[1] Wei, C.C., and Horn, L. (2002). Persistence and Attainment of Beginning Students With Pell Grants (NCES 2002–169). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, available at:

[2] Wei, C.C., and Horn, L. (2009) A Profile of Successful Pell Grant Recipients: Time to Bachelor’s Degree and Early Graduate School Enrollment (NCES 2009-156). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC, available at:

  • Share

Most Commented

May 7, 2024


Creating Students, Not Activists

The mobs desecrating the American flag, smashing windows, chanting genocidal slogans—this always was the end game of the advocates of the right to protest, action civics, student activ......

March 9, 2024


A Portrait of Claireve Grandjouan

Claireve Grandjouan, when I knew her, was Head of the Classics Department at Hunter College, and that year gave a three-hour Friday evening class in Egyptian archaeology....

April 20, 2024


The Academic's Roadmap

By all means, pursue your noble dream of improving the condition of humanity through your research and teaching. Could I do it all again, I would, but I would do things very differently....

Most Read

May 15, 2015


Where Did We Get the Idea That Only White People Can Be Racist?

A look at the double standard that has arisen regarding racism, illustrated recently by the reaction to a black professor's biased comments on Twitter....

October 12, 2010


Ask a Scholar: What is the True Definition of Latino?

What does it mean to be Latino? Are only Latin American people Latino, or does the term apply to anyone whose language derived from Latin?...

September 21, 2010


Ask a Scholar: What Does YHWH Elohim Mean?

A reader asks, "If Elohim refers to multiple 'gods,' then Yhwh Elohim really means Lord of Gods...the one of many, right?" A Hebrew expert answers....