The percentage of Pell Grant recipients on campus is steadily rising, according to Director of Undergraduate Financial Aid Robin Moscato. The percentage of Pell Grant recipients in the Class of 2018 is 18 percent.
In 2008, nine percent of the student body was a Pell Grant recipient; in 2012 the number had increased to 13 percent.
This announcement comes after a ranking in The New York Times’ “The Upshot,” in which the University was named the 34th most economically diverse top college.
The list ranked colleges whosefour-year graduation rate is higher than 75 percentby their commitment to lower-income students. According to theTimes article, the level of commitment is numerically expressed through a College Access Index, which is based on the percentage of freshmen in the past three academic years who are Pell Grant recipients, and on the average net cost of attendance in the past academic year for students whose families’ yearly income is between $30,000 and $48,000.
The Pell Grant is one of the largest federal financial aid programs, and its recipients are from households in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution. Student loans and work-study jobs are included in the average net cost of attendance.
On average, the University costs $5,400 per year for low and middle-income families after financial aid.The University was the first in the nation in 2001 to establish a no-loan policy, in which loans are replaced by grant aid that students do not pay back.
“In general, it’s very hard to get low-income students to apply to prestigious colleges for various reasons,” Pell Grant recipient Brittney Watkins ’16 said. “People aren’t aware that it could be cheaper than going to other schools in their area.”
Ana Maldonado ’16, another Pell Grant Recipient, also noted that some students from lower-income families are not aware of the financial aid program.
Moscato, who spokeon behalf of other University administrators contacted, said that the University has been making efforts to publicize the financial aid program by working with organizations such as QuestBridge, which helps link low-income students with universities and other opportunities.
“Part of that process is helping [students from lower-income families] understand the way our financial aid program works, and how it would make Princeton one of their most affordable options,” Moscato stated.
She also noted that using the Pell Grant as a measure for economic diversity is restrictive. For example, international students from lower-income families are not Pell-eligible and therefore not counted in the measure. A third of the Class of 2018 comes from families with incomes under $100,000, she said.
“I believe that, by most measures, people would not consider that to be wealthy,” she said. “But they’re not qualified for a Pell Grant.”
“TheUpshot” admits that the “biggest downside of using the Pell grant as a measure is that it treats students just above the threshold as no different from affluent students.” The blog also states, however, that in general, a large percentage of Pell Grant recipients is an indicator of an economically diverse campus.
“It’s less of a problem than it is a goal of Princeton — to identify the most talented students from all economic backgrounds including students from low-income and middle-income families,” Moscato said.
Both Watkins and Maldonado mentioned that a given university’s academics and social setting could also be factors for lower-income students in choosing their colleges, and that the offered financial aid was a factor in their decisions to attend the university.
Harvard and Yale were ranked 6th and 44th, respectively, on the list.