UC and comparator Pell recipient graduation rates

Pell Grants are federal grants awarded to low-income undergraduate students; the number of Pell Grant recipients is often used as a proxy for low-income student enrollment. The US Department of Education releases data annually for first-time, full-time freshmen enrollments and those students’ six-year graduation outcomes.

UC campuses compare favorably in both the share of Pell Grant recipients and six-year graduation rates when considering American Association of Universities (AAU) peers, California State University (CSU) campuses and a selection of other large state university systems.
  • The University of California's 2012 freshman class was 39 percent Pell Grant recipients. AAU public institutions overall enrolled 22 percent Pell Grant recipients, while AAU private institutions enrolled 16 percent.
  • 81 percent of UC Pell Grant recipients who entered as freshmen in 2014 graduated within six years.
  • No AAU or CSU campus both enrolled a higher percentage of Pell Grant recipients in their 2014 freshman class, the most recent data available, and had a higher graduation rate for those Pell recipient students.

Across all types of institutions, campuses that enroll a higher proportion of Pell Grant recipients tend to have lower six-year graduation rates for those students. While UC campuses follow this pattern, they consistently outperform campuses that have similar proportions of Pell grant recipients. On average, public AAU universities enroll fewer Pell recipients (21%) and have lower graduation rates (73%) for those students than the UC system. Private AAU institutions have a higher graduation rate for Pell recipients (90%) than the UC average but enrolled a very small proportion (15%) of Pell recipient students.

UC also compares favorably to other large state university systems. With the exception of UC Berkeley, none of the flagship campuses of the University of Michigan, the Ohio State University, the University of Texas, the University of Washington or the University of Wisconsin enrolled a larger proportion of new freshmen Pell recipients than any UC campus.