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ERIC Number: EJ726499
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 10
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0009-1383
College Education for Low-Income Students: A Caution about Using Data on Pell Grant Recipients
Tebbs, Jeffrey; Turner, Sarah
Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, v37 n4 p34 Jul-Aug 2005
The extent to which colleges and universities provide opportunities for students from the most economically disadvantaged families is an important indicator of the potential for U.S. higher education to promote intergenerational mobility. Yet the measurement of "opportunity" for low-income students at the level of individual colleges and universities is neither a straightforward nor a transparent metric. A number of recent publications and presentations have compared how successful colleges and universities are at recruiting and enrolling low-income students using the ratio of Pell Grant recipients to enrollment as the measure. But this measure is seriously flawed with respect to both computation and interpretation, providing far less information than is asserted about how well different colleges and universities recruit and enroll students from low- and middle-income families. The primary purpose of this article is to explain these calculations and to show why some of the observed differences across institutions may be spurious. Broadly, the problem is that these measures do not address the question of how effectively colleges facing similar market conditions enroll low-income students. Instead, the measures often capture differences in program offerings (such as the presence of adult education programs) or the demographic characteristics of the pool of potential students (such as the relative number of well-qualified students from poor families in the state) rather than college-level policies positively affecting the enrollment of low-income students. (Contains a list of 8 resources.)
Heldref Publications, Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation, 1319 Eighteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036-1802. Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: Pell Grant Program