University Of California Students Reap Tons Of Federal Financial Aid

Rob Shimshock | Education Reporter

Three nationally ranked universities with the highest percentages of freshman students receiving federal financial aid Pell grants are all public colleges in California, according to a Monday report.

Forty-one percent of 2015 freshmen at University of California, Irvine; 39 percent at University of California, Santa Barbara; and 36 percent at University of California, Santa Cruz received Pell grants, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. Unlike loans, students do not need to repay Pell grants. Nearly 40 of the 150 schools analyzed by WaPo have freshman classes where one-fifth of the students obtained the grants.

The analysis also charted the percentage change from 2010 to 2015 in the number of freshmen receiving Pell grants at each school. Over one-fourth of University of California, San Diego freshmen received federal financial aid in 2015, however, nearly half of the school’s 2010 freshman class received the grants. Middlebury College and Pomona College contributed the largest shift in the opposite direction; seven percent more students at each school received federal aid from 2010 to 2015.

Between 10 and 20 percent of freshmen at each Ivy League school analyzed received Pell grants in 2015.

Harvard University and a couple of other schools discussed their approach to fostering “socioeconomic diversity” at the institutions.

“We feel pretty good about the increase in socioeconomic diversity,” Sally Donahue, a financial aid director and senior admissions officer at Harvard, said to WaPo. “Could we do better? Sure. We try every year to cast a wider, deeper net.”

Washington and Lee University in Virginia took last place on the list for Pell grants, with only six percent of its 2015 freshman students utilizing the grant. School president Will Dudley reported the share increased to 11 percent for fall 2017 and that he wishes to raise it even higher. William and Mary in Virginia expressed similar sentiments.

“We have made some progress in recent years, but this is an area in which we understand we must do better,” said Brian Whitson, spokesman for the school. William and Mary had a nine percent Pell share for 2015 freshmen, but 12 percent for 2017 freshmen.

Humanities and social sciences majors receive higher average federal aid than students in STEM fields, according to 2011-2012 Department of Education data obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. Federal aid-receiving students majoring in humanities and social sciences obtained $9,900 and $9,800, respectively, on average from federal aid. Students studying natural sciences and mathematics and engineering and engineering technology receive average financial aid totaling $8,500 to $9,100.

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