Giving Compass' Take:

• Jon Marcus reports that only half of Pell Grant recipients at four-year colleges in 2011 graduated within six years.  

• How can funders help schools support Pell Grant recipients? How can Pell Grants be made more effective? 

• Learn how to create pathways to college for low-income women

In all, only half of U.S. students at four-year universities and colleges who got Pell Grants in 2011 graduated within six years, an analysis of this data by Seton Hall University assistant professor of education Robert Kelchen shows. That compares to nearly 60 percent of all students.

The proportion of Pell recipients who earned degrees within six years was lowest at for-profit institutions: 20 percent, the nonprofit education research group Ithaka S+R finds. Pell recipients fared best at private, nonprofit campuses, where 55 percent of them graduated.

The figures provide the first-ever look at the return on taxpayers’ investment in the largest single federal financial aid program; this information was never before collectively available, and while individual colleges were required to disclose it if asked, some refused. About 7.5 million students are projected to get Pell Grants this coming academic year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The generally low success rate reflects the special challenges that face low-income college students. It also shows the impact of their concentration in the institutions least equipped to help them succeed, while wealthier students predominate at elite private and public flagship universities that have significantly more resources.

Several policy organizations have urged that institutions be held more accountable for the success of their students who get Pell Grants.

Read the full article about Pell Grant recipients graduating by Jon Marcus at The Hechinger Report.