Money Left on the Table (2018)

While the skyrocketing price of college tuition has been discussed at length, less time has been spent examining the additional costs that students often have to bear, like food, rent, books, and transportation. The federally funded Pell Grant helps financially eligible students focus on their studies and earn their degree because it can be used to cover these non-tuition costs. Nearly half a million community college students in California rely on the Pell Grant as the key to their academic success.

This research brief from Wheelhouse: The Center for Community College Leadership and Research at the UC Davis School of Education examines how many of California’s eligible community college students actually receive the financial aid they deserve. College Futures Foundation provided a grant to support this research.

The report’s authors found:

  • More than 20 percent of eligible California community college students who successfully apply for financial aid still do not receive the Pell Grant.
  • Nearly $130 million is “left on the table” in a single semester as a result of students not receiving the financial aid they deserve.
  • The rate of students receiving the Pell Grant varies widely by campus—even after controlling for factors like student demographics and campus size.

These findings suggest that campus-level policies and practices play an important role in ensuring that eligible students receive the federal support that could potentially change their lives. Wheelhouse is conducting further research into the factors that lead to students missing out on Pell Grants and seeks to explain the variation among campuses, and to assess how not receiving Pell Grants affects students’ academic success.


Download Money Left on the Table: An Analysis of Pell Grant Receipt Among Financially-Eligible Community College Students in California

Visit Wheelhouse’s website