In a recent study compiled by The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Georgetown University ranked 12th among the top 26 schools that award Pell grants. Pell grants are a form of financial aid that is awarded to students from low-income families. The study reported that these grants could be used as an indicator of the economic and possibly racial diversity within a school.

In order to receive a Pell grant, a student must fill out the FAFSA form when applying for financial aid. The state computes students’ “expected family contribution” based on a formula taking various financial factors into account. It then uses the EFC to determine the grants that will be issued. The U.S. Department of Education, which awards Pell grants, usually awards them to families in very low-income brackets. According to the study, “more than one half of all Pell grant recipients come from families that have incomes under $15,000 [a year].” Students can receive up to a maximum of about $3,750 toward undergraduate tuition from these grants.

Pell grants were named after Senator Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.). As stated in the study, the program has an annual budget of $9 million and gives out awards to approximately four million students a year.

The study reports that colleges tend to adjust their financial aid packages according to the Pell grant award. They decide on the compensation they will provide for college after students are told the amount of the Pell grant award. This makes the percentage of students receiving Pell grants a key indicator of the economic diversity within the school. The higher the percentage, the more low-income family students there are.

Georgetown University was ranked among the top 26 schools to have students receiving Pell grants, with a total of 10.4 percent. This is relatively high in comparison with other schools. The University of California-Berkeley, Cornell University and the California Institute of Technology rank among the top three schools that have students receiving Pell grants. Their percentages are 28.2 percent, 27.1 percent and 14.5 percent, respectively. Georgetown’s percentage of 10.4 percent is in the median range of the top 26 schools, with Harvard University at the bottom with only 6.6 percent.

The study claims that Pell grants may also be an indicator of the racial diversity within a school. “This data on Pell grant recipients provides only very indirect information on the racial makeup of a university’s student body. However, since blacks are almost three times as likely as whites to come from families living below the poverty level, it is likely that colleges and universities with large numbers of students who receive Pell grants (and therefore are more likely to come from low-income homes) will have larger numbers of low-income blacks than colleges and universities with very few Pell grant recipients,” the study said.

Grant awards effectively measure the racial diversity of minority students at a particular university because minority students tend to receive more aid in the form of grants. The study reported, “Only about 22 percent of U.S. college students receive financial aid in the form of grants. And black students are far more likely to receive federal grants than white students . In fact, more than 38 percent of all African-American undergraduate students receive federal grants compared to 16.6 percent of white college students.”

The study also measured recent trends in colleges and the percentage of students receiving Pell grants. Georgetown was seventh on the list of the top 26 schools that have experienced an increase in the enrollment of low-income students. In 1991, the percentage of students to receive Pell grant aid was only 9.9 percent, which indicates a 0.5 percent increase from data found this year.

The findings in the study may help erase common stereotypes about the economic makeup at Georgetown University. Because the grant percentage is an indicator of the number of students from low-income households, it holds that there is a significant percentage of students at Georgetown University who do not come from families in high-income brackets.

As with any study, this most recent analysis cannot predict anything about the economic and racial diversity of schools with precision. However, it is successful in conveying something about the economic diversity at different schools around the nation and to confirm or reject any preexisting notions that people may have.

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