Interesting article in today’s Washington Post, entitled Pell Grant Shares at Top-Ranked Colleges: a sortable chart, with a number of Williams connections. The data is based on kids who were freshman in 2015, so its a little dated, but it reports that 22% of Williams freshman in 2015 were eligible for Pell Grants from the Federal government. This number was up from 21% in 2010. According to the article, Williams is one of 39 schools amongst the top 100 national universities and top 50 liberal arts colleges (according to the US News and World Report rankings) which has a freshman class with at least 20% Pell Grant eligible students.
Two former Williams faculty members are quoted in the article, representing schools with (relatively) high and low numbers of Pell Grant eligible students. According to the article, Vassar College adopted a need-blind admissions policy in 2007 and has seen its percentage of Pell Grant eligible students jump from 12% to 23%, without any decline in the academic credentials of its incoming students:
Catharine Hill [Williams Class of 1976
1977and former provost of Williams], president of Vassar from 2006 to 2016, said the school’s record shows it is possible to broaden the demographic base of a selective college — drawing more students from low- and moderate-income families — without compromising standards. “In most cases, if you wanted to do more, you could do more,” Hill said. “All we had to do was go looking for kids. Our academic credentials actually went up.”
On the other hand, Washington and Lee University has gone in the other direction, with its percentage of Pell Grant eligible students dropping from 11% to 6% between 2010 and 2015. Washington and Lee wants to reverse this trend, though, at least according to its new President:
Will Dudley [Williams Class of 1989 and also a former provost of Williams], who this year became president of the private Virginia liberal arts school, said the share rose to 11 percent this fall and he wants to lift it further. Dudley said he raised the issue of socioeconomic diversity at Washington and Lee when he was interviewing for the job. Previously, he was provost at Williams College, which had a far higher Pell share in 2015 — 22 percent. “If they didn’t want to make progress, they wouldn’t have hired me,” Dudley said.
The entire article and the underlying data is interesting. No one seems to to question that the percentage of Pell Grant eligible students is a good proxy for socio-economic diversity. I wonder if there are different metrics to try to measure the same thing.
Should Williams make additional efforts to recruit and admit more students who are eligible for Pell Grants?