Few at College receive Pell Grants

by Zachary Goldstein | 11/25/03 6:00am

Compared to the national average of 22.6 percent, only 11.1 percent of Dartmouth undergraduates are national Pell Grant recipients, according to a study released earlier this month by The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. The article entitled "Pell Grant Count Puts Most Ivy League Schools Near the Bottom in Percentage of Low-Income Students" revealed that all eight Ivies scored below the national average in percentage of undergraduates receiving Pell Grants.

Princeton had the lowest percentage in the Ivy League with just 7.7 percent of students receiving Pell Grants. Harvard and Yale are both under 10 percent was well, with 9.8 and 9.9 percent respectively, with Brown coming in just above them at 10.1 percent. Ranked above Dartmouth were University of Pennsylvania, with 12.3 percent, and Cornell and Columbia with 16.5 and 17.2 percent respectively.

The study commends the Ivy League schools for "a strong commitment to ... uncompromising support for affirmative action in student admissions" and for "celebrated black studies programs." However, according to the study, neither of these lauded accomplishments can make up for the dearth of low-income students.

"But the strength in black studies may not be a good surrogate for a strong commitment to low-income students," the Journal said in its article.

The statistics were based on numbers provided by the Department of Education about the 2001-02 academic year. Director of Financial Aid Virginia Hazen claimed that the number of Pell grant recipients at Dartmouth has increased in recent years.

"Our Pell Grants are actually up significantly this year," Hazen said. "But that doesn't surprise me because the economy is bad."

However, Hazen did not appear particularly surprised by the low Ivy League percentages.

"As a rule the quantity of students in need of federal aid at public schools is significantly higher than at an Ivy school," Hazen said. "Community colleges in particular tend to attract a lot of the neediest students."

In May, the Department of Education revised the formula which determines who is eligible for the billions of dollars in financial aid that are distributed every year. Critics have accused the Bush administration of trying to find a backdoor way to cut education aid. It has been estimated that the new formula would effectively bar about 84,000 students from receiving Pell Grants starting next year.

Pell Grant recipients receive up to $4,050 in aid from the federal government. Calculations based on factors such as family size, income and assets determine eligibility and amount of aid. Recipients almost always come from families with incomes below $35,000. In fact, over 50 percent of Pell Grant recipients come from families with incomes under $15,000.

Because most schools, including Dartmouth, request that all students applying for aid also file for federal financial aid, the Journal claims a relatively high level of accuracy in its statistics.

"We believe that the percentage of Pell grantees on campus is a pretty good measure of an institution's number of low-income students." At Dartmouth that number was 447 Pell Grant recipients out of the just-over-4000 student on campus for the '01-'02 academic year.