UC Leads the Way in Enrollment and Six Year Graduation of Pell Grant Recipients

Pell Grants are federal grants awarded to low-income undergraduate students. The number of Pell Grant recipients is often used as a convenient proxy for low-income students. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Education released Pell Grant recipient outcomes for the first time, reflecting the entering 2010 cohort of full-time, first-time degree-seeking undergraduates.

UC campuses compare favorably in both the share of Pell grant recipients enrolled and those students’ six year graduation rates when compared to American Association of Universities (AAU) member schools, California State University (CSU) campuses and a selection of other large state university systems.

  • 42% of all UC first-time degree-seeking students in the 2010 cohort were Pell Grant recipients, compared to 22% at non-UC AAU Public institutions and 16% at AAU Private institutions.
  • 81% of the 2010 cohort of first-time degree-seeking Pell Grant recipient students at UC graduated in six years, while 86% of non-Pell recipients graduated.
  • No CSU or AAU school had both a higher percentage of Pell enrollees and a higher Pell graduation rate than any UC campus.

There is a clear negative association between the percentage of Pell Grant recipients that a university enrolls and the percentage of Pell Grant recipients that graduate within six years of enrollment. While UC campuses follow this same pattern, they consistently have better outcomes than other universities that enroll a similar percentage of Pell grant recipients. On average, AAU public universities have the highest six year graduation rates for Pell Grant recipients, but the lowest enrollment rates. The University of Southern California, for example, had the highest Pell Grant enrollment rate at 24% in 2010, lower than the lowest enrollment rate at a UC campus, 27% at UC Berkeley. On average, non-UC AAU public schools enrolled and graduated fewer Pell Grant recipients, 22% and 72% respectively, relative to UC’s 42% and 81%, respectively. Although CSU enrolled a slightly higher percentage, 44%, of Pell Grant recipients than UC, their six year Pell graduation rate is much lower than UC’s at 54%.




UC’s enrollment and graduation rates also compare favorably to other large, state university systems. With the exception of the UC Berkeley campus, 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 have a larger proportion of new freshman Pell Grant recipient enrollees than any UC campus, and none of the constituent campuses of these systems have both a higher percentage of new Pell Grant recipient enrollment and a higher six year Pell graduation rate than any UC campus.



Use the interactive table below to find the most recent data about any college or university’s enrollment and graduation rates by Pell Grant status.