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Like many students, my college decision was based largely on the price I would have to pay — tuition, financial aid, and in-state vs. out-of-state costs all had an influence. However, there was one other factor I should have paid close attention to — one that would have solidified for me and my mother whether my investment was a sound decision — and that is graduation rates for Pell Grant recipients.

Sure, graduation rates for all students are important, but let’s face it: Far too many colleges and universities have a tough time graduating Pell Grant recipients like myself, so it’s important to know how these students fare. If a college or university graduates the same percentage of Pell Grant recipients as it does other students, prospective students and their families can be assured that the supports necessary for success are likely available to students who need them.

Pell Grant graduation rates weren’t available when I was considering college, but they are now. We recently released The Pell Partnership, which includes one of the most comprehensive examinations of graduation rates for Pell Grant recipients and how they compare with the rates of non-Pell students on both an institutional and national level. The accompanying online data tool makes graduation rate data for Pell Grant students easy to find and access all in one place.

At my alma mater, Temple University for example, the tool shows that 66 percent of Pell students graduate — roughly the same percentage of non-Pell students — which suggests this institution takes seriously their commitment to helping Pell recipients complete their degrees. When I was a student, Temple offered a variety of work-study opportunities, many of which allowed students to work beyond the maximum amount allotted so they didn’t have to leave campus to find work. The university recognized that many students needed to work — whether to help pay tuition, buy books, or to have a little spending money for extracurricular activities. It was no surprise, then, for me to see Temple highlighted in The Pell Partnership as one of 36 universities serving Pell students well.

I was fortunate that things worked out the way they did and that I chose a college that would serve me well. But these decisions shouldn’t be left to luck or guessing games. Students should have all of the information they need to make an educated decision about college, and for nearly 40 percent of our nation’s college-going population, graduation rates of Pell Grant recipients are a relevant and important factor in choosing a university. I didn’t have all the facts, but hopefully today’s students can.

Photo credit: Smith College

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