I reviewed this page three weeks ago, and I decided that my references to inherent NPC variability here are accurate but confusing. I will re-write it soon, but not until I've published a few paragraph explaining NPC variability on my new "Top Topics" page. I am sorry that, due to the death of a close relative, this process has been delayed. I will complete it as soon as my schedule allows, and you will know it's complete when this red note is gone.
THE "PELL KIDS" PAGE IS A NEW ONE ON THIS SITE, AND IT'S EVOLVING EACH WEEK. SO, PLEASE ENJOY THIS BETA VERSION FOR NOW, AND WATCH IT DEVELOP.
The Pell Grant program, named for Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell, is administered by the U.S. Department of Education, and it has been in operation since 1965. For deeper background on Pell Grants, here's the link to a Wikipedia article:
But the basics are that Pell Grants - like all grant aid - do not have to be repaid by students or parents; they are intended to assist students in completing their first bachelors degree; and they are awarded on the basis of need. Like all need-based aid, the value of Pell Grants goes down as family income goes up, and students from families earning up to around $70,000 per year currently qualify for Pell grants. So, families do not have to be "poor" to qualify for Pell Grants. The current Federal Poverty Level in America for a family of four is an annual income of $24,300 per year in the lower 48 states, and the maximum allowable income for Pell Grant recipients is about three times that amount. Additionally, the $70,000 maximum limit for Pell Grants is about $16,500 higher per year than the median household income in America, currently around $53,500. So, way more than half of American students are Pell Grant eligible - I call them "Pell Kids" - and the great majority of them aren't "poor." By the way, the Census Bureau has a great site for finding statistics like that, and here's the link:
A couple years ago, The Upshot team at the New York Times began rating the most successful colleges in America - the ones with, among other things, the best reasonable-time graduation rates - and the percentage of Pell Kids graduating at each school was a key component in their rating system. The result of their efforts is The New York Times College Access Index, and I think you're going to love their work. Here's the link:
The College Access Index is a wonderful tool right now, just as it is. And, since no college wants a low "accessibility" rating, this Index is engendering exactly the kind of competition among colleges that will benefit thousands and thousands of Pell Kids nationwide. But, if we combine the College Access Index with the Apples-to-Apples method you're learning in this site, we can have some fun and add an important perspective to your college searches. So, let's take a look at an Apples-to-Apples analysis of the top five schools in the New York Times College Access Index. I did this analysis using my standard input data for both the $60K and $40K income levels, key data points for Pell Kids. Since all five of the top five College Access Index schools are in California, I reduced my usual Travel Costs from $1,000 to $500 for all five schools, and I used California resident inputs, meaning in-state input data, for all my Net Price Calculator analyses. Also, since EFC's vary a little bit from state to state, and since I wanted to know whether any loans would be necessary for typical Pell Kids and their families at these schools and to calculate the expected amounts of those loans, I needed to get the specific Expected Family Contributions for California families at both the $60K and $40K income levels. For these EFC estimates I used the College Board's very accurate EFC Estimator program, and here's the link:
The estimated California EFC's were a few hundred dollars less than the Washington state EFC's I use as my benchmark, and here are the results using the more common Federal Methodology at both income levels:
For an Adjusted Gross Income of $60,000 per year: Expected Parent Contribution $3,922 + Expected Student Contribution 100 = Expected Family Contribution $4,022
For an Adjusted Gross Income of $40,000 per year: Expected Parent Contribution $652 + Expected Student Contribution 100 = Expected Family Contribution $752
Also, since the Federal Methodology's $100 estimate of annual student earnings is so low - less than two short shifts at McDonald's per year - the FM EFC is always regarded as only the parents' contribution in this website.
Using the same technique to calculate expected loan levels that we used in the First Family's College Search: No-loan financial aid offers are expected where Remaining Balances are not more than the Expected Family Contribution plus the $1,500 standard of error for Net price Calculator programs; and Moderate-loan financial aid offers are expected where Remaining Balances are not more than the Expected Family Contribution, plus the $1,500 standard of error for Net price Calculator programs, plus the $5,500 Stafford Loan maximum for first-year students. That means: For the $60K data set, no-loan offers are expected when Remaining Balances are $5,522 or less; and moderate-loan offers are expected when Remaining Balances are greater than $5,522 but less than $11,022; and For the $40K data set, no-loan offers are expected when Remaining Balances are $2,252 or less; and moderate-loan offers are expected when Remaining Balances are greater than $2,252 but less than $7,752. Now, let's take a look at the data and see how the College Access Index's Top Five did in this analysis:
You can see that they all did well, but let's take a closer look.
These data confirm a comment I made on the Homepage to the effect that financial aid varies a lot among schools, even among similar schools doing similar things in similar places. And here you see a significant variation among universities that are not only in the same state but even in the same system of universities. Berkeley grads, by the way, should not assume that the Golden Bears would have been best, if only Berkeley had been included. Remember that Berkeley was seventh in the College Access Index, so it wasn't included in this Top Five comparison. But it would have placed fourth in the $60K table with a $6,671 Remaining Balance, and it would have placed third in the $40K Table with a $3,299 if it were included. Now, those numbers definitely place the Golden Bears in the hunt, but they would still trail the UCLA Bruins by a significant margin. The order of the schools in this generosity ranking is different from the order of the schools in the College Access Index, but the generosity order is consistent at each income level, confirming my general confidence in the data. Also, the two top schools in these tables, UCLA and UC-Irvine, had already programmed their Net Price Calculators with cost and aid data for the 2016/2017 school year, while the other three schools were still using data that was between one year old and two years stale. It's not unusual for schools to be a little tardy in August and September, but it's unusual for a school of UC-Santa Barbara's caliber to still be publishing two year old data. And I will be glad to delete this advisement and to redo their data as soon as they tell me that they are up to date.
I've found in all my business research that, if the researcher imposes reasonable criteria in a consistent manner and with the results ordered in a reasonable way, the data will almost analyze itself. So, I was not surprised that the results in both of these tables fell into a natural triage, with one school high, one school low, and a cluster in the high middle. The nice thing about that triage and both of these tables, however, is that all the results at both income levels are just different flavors of good news. Now, let's see what we can do to differentiate them. UCLA smoked the $60K field with the only clearly no-loan Remaining Balance, illustrating the point I made on my Homepage that a college doesn't have to be no-loan school to make a no-loan offer. So, I would rate UCLA as a "Highly Generous College" at that income level, and kudos to UCLA. But UC's Irvine, Davis, and Santa Barbara weren't far behind UCLA at all at the $60K level with expected annual loans of $734, $1,112, and $1,412. That means the highest annual loan total among the three schools is still expected to be only one quarter of the Stafford loan limit for first year students, a wonderful result. So, kudos to UC's Irvine, Davis and Santa Barbara at the $60K level also. They are all at the top of what I call "Very Generous Colleges." Nicely done! So, where does that leave UC-San Diego? Its Remaining Balance makes it moderate-loan school, where students at the $60K income level can expect financial aid offers that don't require annual student loans exceeding the $5,500 Stafford Loan maximum for first-year students. This means that I would call UC-San Diego a "Generous College" at the $60K level, and you will see that plenty of colleges aren't. So, applause for UCSD too. But, given that all five of those schools are national quality universities with national quality students, where do those numbers place those schools in a national context? This website helps by providing not only a steady data input methodology, but also a list of 130 schools ranked in order of their generosity and analyzed the same way. I trust that you will read about the method I use - and its limitations - at the top of my Examples page, the next page in this website, but I think you're ready for my Compilations. So, here's the 49-state version of my 2015 $60K Compilation, where non-resident costs and fees are shown for all the schools:
For a national perspective, if we insert our resident data for the Top Five schools in the College Access Index into that $60K Compilation one at a time, UCLA would rank 30th, Irvine 38th, Davis 42nd, Santa Barbara 43rd, and San Diego 59th. That places all five of our target schools in the upper half of the 130 schools listed, but there are plenty of more generous schools out there, and I am left with a question. Why do national quality Pell Kids from California choose large, local state universities over alternatives that will frequently be much less expensive for themselves and their families? But let's not ignore the $40K data set. UCLA was also clearly superior in the $40K field with the only no-loan Remaining Balance, again making UCLA a "Highly Generous College" at that income level. Hurray! But - as with the $60K data set - Irvine, Davis, and Santa Barbara weren't far behind UCLA with expected annual loans in the range of $737; $1,159; and $1,450 respectively. Again, the largest loan amount is still only one quarter of the Stafford loan limit for first year students. So, kudos again Irvine, Davis and Santa Barbara at the $40K level, and I would place them all at the top of what I call "Very Generous Colleges" once again. Beautiful! And how about UC-San Diego? Its Remaining Balance again makes it moderate-loan school and what I call a "Generous College", where students at that income level can expect financial aid offers that don't require annual student loans exceeding the $5,500 Stafford Loan maximum for first-year students. So, applause again for UCSD too. From a national perspective the $40K results are very similar to the $60K results. If we slide our resident data for the Top Five schools in the College Access Index into my $40K Compilation one at a time, UCLA would rank 33rd, Irvine 41st, Davis 46nd, Santa Barbara 47th, and San Diego 60th. Again, all five of our target schools would be in the upper half of the 130 schools listed, but once again there are plenty of more generous schools out there. And I'm again left wondering why higher proportions of national quality Pell Kids from California choose these large, publicly-funded colleges over alternatives that will frequently be much less expensive?
There will be more analysis to come, but for now I it's obvious that a high proportion of California Pell Kids choose local, publicly-funded universities over much less expensive national alternatives. Why? Stay tuned.