ED Dives Into Pell Grant Data

By Katy Hopkins, Communications Staff 

A newly released letter from the Department of Education (ED) to Congress provides aggregate graduation information on cohorts of Pell Grant recipients tracked through the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) but cautions data remain limited. 

In response to a request from the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act, ED has provided cumulative totals of Pell Grant recipients who graduated, by cohort year. ED also assembled extensive lists of the number of Pell Grant recipients and total Pell dollars disbursed at the state, sector, and institutional levels. 

However, because NSLDS was originally structured to track federal student loan borrowers and it has not yet been determined how transfer students should be treated in the completion-rate calculation, ED does not yet have complete and accurate data to calculate institutional-level graduation rates for Pell Grant recipients. Institutions began to report information on Pell Grant-only recipients in 2012, so the data in the report include only the 70 percent of Pell recipients also borrow, ED notes.

Among the findings, ED calculated that 38.82 percent of Pell Grant recipients catalogued  in NSLDS who started at a four-year institution in 2007-08 graduated from any four-year institution within six years. The completion figure rises to 44.41 percent for that cohort when looking at those graduated from any institution (whether a four-year or fewer). 

In the letter, ED says it is working to gather more comprehensive information on the educational paths of students who only receive a Pell Grant. Although institutions are required to disclose Pell Grant graduation rates under consumer information requirements, they are not required to report such rates to ED. Better data collection at the postsecondary level would aid in the effort to gather Pell Grant graduation rates by institution. NASFAA is supportive of a limited student unit record system, a recommendation put forth by the Consumer Information Task Force. 


Publication Date: 2/13/2015

Mark K | 2/18/2015 4:58:11 PM

Based on data from the 2009 follow-up to the 2003-04 Beginning Postsecondary Students (BPS:04/09) longitudinal study, 44.4% of Pell Grant recipients at 4-year colleges attained a Bachelor's degree within six years, compared with 64.0% of non-recipients. 5.6% received an Associate's degree (vs. 4.1%) and 2.5% received a certificate (vs. 1.3%). At 2-year schools, 6.5% of Pell Grant recipients (vs. 12.9% for non-recipients) attained a Bachelor's degree, 15.9% (vs. 14.6%) attained an Associate's degree, and 11.6% (vs. 8.3%) attained a Certificate.

Of course, this analysis compares Pell Grant recipients with non-recipients, who may be much wealthier. If we limit the analysis to students who were eligible for a Pell Grant (with an EFC of 3645, which is 90% of the maximum grant) whether or not they filed the FAFSA, the gap shrinks. Of students who started at a 4-year school, 44.1% of Pell Grant recipients attained a Bachelor's degree, compared with 48.9% of non-recipients. The figures for Associate's degrees are 5.6% vs. 3.6%. The figures for certificates are 2.5% vs. 1.5%. Of students who started at a 2-year school, 6.5% of Pell Grant recipients attained a Bachelor's degree vs. 8.8% for non-recipients. The figures for Associate's degrees are 15.7% vs. 8.5% and the figures for certificates are 11.7% vs. 9.2%.

This analysis does not adjust for differences in the control of institution.

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