For Better Or Pell

We have seen that, among the Virginia public, 4-year college programs, the graduation rate of Pell grantees correlates strongly with the overall graduation rate of the school.

SCHEV has some more data on this subject.  Here, for the public, four-year institutions, for the entering student year 2010-11, are the four-, five-, and six-year graduation rates at the college of entry of first time in college, full time, students with and without Pell grants, grouped by the number of credits attempted in the first term.


The green curves are for students without Pell grants.  Those attempting 15 to 17.5 credits in the first term (blue diamonds) showed a 58% 4-year rate, while the 5- and 6-year rates rose to 76% each.  Those attempting 18 or more credits (orange diamonds) achieved slightly lower rates while those attempting 12 to 14.5 credits (yellow diamonds) graduated at rates about ten percent lower.

The Pell grant population are the gray curves with the same codes for the data point colors. 


  • For all six groups, the rates did not increase much after the fifth year;
  • For both Pell and non-Pell, the students attempting 14.5 or fewer hours in their first terms graduated at about 10% lower rates than their peers who attempted 15 to 17.5 hour loads;
  • In both groups, students attempting still heavier loads — 18 hours or more — graduated less often than those attempting 15-17.5 but still more often than the 12-14.5 tranche. 

That last is only partially consistent with the notion that A students underestimate their abilities while D and F students overestimate theirs.  Something else is at work here.

In any case, the bottom line remains the same as in the earlier data: Pell grants are subsidizing a lot of failure.