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Receipt of a Pell Grant is Associated with a Shorter Time to Degree

August 26, 2009

Among students who completed a bachelor's degree in 1999-2000, 36 percent had received at least one Federal Pell Grant during their undergraduate education. "A Profile of Successful Pell Grant Recipients - Time to Bachelor's Degree and Early Graduate School Enrollment," a new report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), describes the characteristics of Pell Grant recipients who graduated from college and compares them with graduates who did not receive Pell Grants. It also compares the two populations in terms of time to bachelor's degree and early graduate school enrollment.

Comparison of Pell Grant Recipients and Nonrecipients

As undergraduates, Pell Grant recipients were generally very low-income students. Reflecting their relative economic disadvantage, nearly nine in 10 Pell Grant recipient college graduates (87%) had borrowed to finance their higher education expenses, compared with roughly one-half (47%) of nonrecipients.

According to the NCES report, one-third (34%) of Pell Grant recipients had delayed their enrollment in postsecondary education, compared with about one-fourth of nonrecipients. Additionally, 4 percent did not have a regular high school diploma, compared with 2 percent of nonrecipients. Upon graduation, 60 percent of Pell Grant recipients were financially independent, compared with about 34 percent of nonrecipients; one fourth (24%) had dependents of their own, compared with 13 percent of nonrecipients. Finally, 11 percent were single parents, compared with 4 percent of nonrecipients.

Pell Grant recipients who completed their postsecondary degree programs also differed from nonrecipient graduates in terms of other demographic characteristics. A larger percentage of recipients had parents with only a high school education or less (41% for recipients, compared with 21% for nonrecipients). In addition, a larger percentage of Pell Grant recipients than nonrecipients came from non-English-speaking households (16% vs. 8%); a larger proportion were Black, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, or from other racial/ethnic backgrounds other than White (37% vs. 20%).

Time to Bachelor's Degree

Although Pell Grant recipients had a longer median time to degree (the time it took to complete a bachelor's degree program) than nonrecipients (62 months vs. 52 months), receipt of a Pell Grant was actually associated with a shorter time to degree in the multivariate regression analysis. This analysis controlled for several related variables simultaneously, including parents' education, undergraduate risk characteristics, and type of institution.

The results of the bivariate analysis are related to the higher transfer and stopout rates among Pell Grant recipients when compared with nonrecipients. About nine out of 10 Pell Grant recipients who took longer than six years to graduate had transferred from one institution to another, and about four out of five had stopped out.

Graduate School Enrollment

Neither the bivariate nor the multivariate analysis found any measurable differences between Pell Grant recipients and nonrecipients in the percentage enrolled in graduate school within one year after college.

About 26 percent of Pell Grant recipients who graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1999-2000 had enrolled in graduate school within one year later-a percentage that was not measurably different from nonrecipients (28%).

For a full copy of the report, please visit the NCES website.

NACUBO Contact
Santiago Merea
Research Associate