Dept. of Education Report Provides Insights on Best Universities for Low Income Students

As many students are trying to decide which colleges to attend in the fall, tuition and overall costs are becoming a major concern. We’ve all heard about or were those students who chose one university over another, simply because they were offering a better scholarship or had lower tuition than another university.

In order to help families and students who are trying to decide which universities to attend, the Department of Education has released a report, outlining the private and public universities offering the best value for students that qualify for Pell grants. The major criteria for this list were that at least 40% of the student population had to be using Pell grants, and at least half of those students had to graduate within six years of enrollment.

At the top of the public universities list is California State University-Stanislaus, which had an annual net price of education for low-income students of just over $5,000. Other universities on the list include Florida International University, Georgia State University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Some schools, like the University of California-Irvine, have an 87% graduation rate for their Pell grant receivers.

When it comes to private universities, at the top of the list is Agnes Scott College, which is not the least expensive university on the list (with a total net cost for low-income students at around $16,400), but does have the highest graduation rates for both students who have Pell grants and their overall student body. Other universities on this list include Blue Mountain College, Salem College, University of La Verne, and William Carey University.

The Department of Education said, along with this report, that how well a student does in university has a lot to do with their economic and racial background. Students from higher socioeconomic classes have a greater chance of graduating from university in general (any university, at any price), simply because they have fewer financial worries. Lower income students are more likely to run out of money or to find that working takes up too much of their time and makes it difficult to stay on top of classes. When having to choose between those two activities, working is often the most obvious choice.

While there are more young adults with college experience than ever before, some college experience is not comparable to actually getting a degree. Many low income students find that they can attend college for a year or two on their own dime, but then have to drop out to pursue a job.

This is why the Department of Education has produced this report: to provide lower income students with a list of options that are likely to actually get them to graduation. For example, the University of California at Irvine has one of the very best track records for helping low income students. There are also a variety of religious universities that provide discounted tuition and scholarship programs, on top of the available Pell grants.

Many schools are making a serious effort to help students who do not have the means to pay tens of thousands of dollars a year to attend a university to still obtain the degree that can propel them forward in life. Some school even have emergency financial aid system, that can help students from dropping out of they are about to run out of money. In conjunction, these universities offer advisement services that help students plan the fastest and most easily obtainable route to their degree and financial counseling to help them make the most out of the money they earn and the money they are receiving.

The report shows that, in general, Pell-eligible students perform better at private universities, but it is worth mentioning that many state schools are developing programs to attract and keep low income students and to reduce their costs. There has been a call from President Obama’s administration recently for state schools to make an even greater effort to make education affordable for students who are eligible for Pell grants.

The government is finally starting to recognize what many college-age students and their families have long known—that there is a caste system in higher education, in which students from higher economic classes get more help when it comes to attending universities than students from lower economic classes, who perhaps need it more.

There are some great universities that did not make the list, because they do not have a high enough ratio of students who are on Pell grants. Amherst College, for example. Only about 20% of their students have Pell grants, but of those students, a whopping 94% graduate and pay less than $4000 each year.