Pell Grant Graduation Rate Lower at Some Oklahoma Colleges

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Many of Oklahoma’s four-year colleges and universities struggle to graduate their poorest students, according to a national report released this week.

The report found that students receiving federal Pell Grants, who tend to come from low-income families, graduate at lower rates than students without the grant. The average gap was about 5.7 percent.

The report was compiled by The Education Trust, a national nonprofit organization that focuses on higher education achievement, especially for minority and low-income students.

In Oklahoma, nine universities, including the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, had larger gaps. Five had no gap and one had a gap that was below the average.

Oklahoma’s Southern Nazarene University had the largest graduation gap in the state at nearly 37 percent.

Only 27 percent of students receiving Pell grants graduated in six years compared with 58 percent for students who did not receive the grant, according to the report.

The overall graduation rate was 31 percent.

About 54 percent of the university’s 1,654 undergraduate students received Pell Grants.

The study also found that Pell Grant recipients are less likely to attend universities considered to be in the top quartile in the nation. Recipients are also more likely to attend universities in the bottom quartile.

While some politicians and think tanks have raised concerns that the gap in graduation rate indicates Pell grants are not working, the reports authors say the college-level data shows otherwise.

The real problem, according to the study’s authors, is that “too many Pell students attend institutions where few students of any sort graduate, and too few attend institutions where most students graduate.

“The data and illustrations in this report suggest that underperforming institutions – rather than the Pell Grant program itself – deserve more scrutiny.”

Education Watch intern Victor Henderson contributed to this report.