Even at Top Colleges, Graduation Gaps Persist for Poor Students

Melissa Korn:

Even at schools where at least two-thirds of students who started in 2011 graduated within six years, the gap was 6.4 percentage points. Pell recipients at those colleges stood a better chance of graduating than elsewhere, but still often significantly lagged behind their classmates. Students with Pell grants had graduation rates at least 10 percentage points lower than other students at schools including Baylor University, Catholic University of America and the University of Pittsburgh.

As selective liberal arts schools and flagship public universities open their doors wider to students from modest backgrounds, the figures show many of those schools don’t serve poor students as well as they do others.

“Access without success is a pretty hollow promise,” said Jim Spain, vice provost of undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri. Based on the data, about 53% of students at Missouri who received Pell grants graduated from the school within six years, while 73% of those who didn’t receive the grants completed their programs.