Go to Pell

After the NYT raised the issue of Pell grant percentages at elite universities, this blog and (more cogently, methinks) the estimable Jim Bacon commented on those and other Pell issues.

To extend the conversation, I’ve revisited the Virginia Pell and graduation rate data.  Here, to start, is a plot of the 2010-11, first-time-in-college, six-year cohort graduation rates of students with Pell grants at entry vs. all students for the public, four-year Virginia programs.


The correlation here is excellent: Schools that graduate more of their students also graduate more of their Pell students.

At the same time, the average Pell graduation rate is 8.3% below the overall rate, and the Pell rate increases slightly more slowly than the overall rate (98% as fast).

The fitted line, above, gives us a measure of the average (well, the the best fit in terms of the minimized sum of squares of the residuals) Pell performance of these schools vs. the overall school rate.  Plotting the differences between actual Pell rates and those calculated from the fitted line gives a measure of relative Pell performance among these Virginia schools.


VMI, Longwood, and VSU turned in outstanding Pell graduation rates, compared to their overall rates.  UVa (excuse me, THE UNIVERSITY), which the Times maligned, did a better than average job of graduating the Pell students it admitted. 

And notice that UVa and W&M are improving on 90%+ graduation rates, which is not an easy thing to do.

These data don’t tell us whether the superior performance comes from more careful admissions, better support, or something else, either alone or in combination.  But, for sure, these schools are doing something right, or at least better than their Virginia colleagues.

At the risk of lese majesty against the Times, I’ll say that UVa is not to be criticized for small Pell populations; it is to be praised for a superior job of graduating its Pell students. 

BTW: Kiplinger says that, as of 2014, UVa was one of only two public colleges to meet 100% of its students’ financial need. 

Then we have James Madison, VCU, Old Dominion, Norfolk State, and Tech all performing worse than their overall graduation rates would predict. 

Something needs fixing there.