Publication | August 11, 2022

Pell Access and Completion Series | Part III: For-Profit Colleges and Universities

The Pell Grant is targeted to students with the greatest financial need, and many policymakers find the Pell Grant a useful policy lever for promoting access and success for students from lower- and moderate-income backgrounds. There are several examples where policymakers use Pell eligibility to allocate resources and hold colleges accountable for their outcomes; however, basic information about Pell access and completion is not well documented in policy research. To address this problem — and to provide baseline statistics useful in policy conversations — this analysis provides new information about Pell enrollments and degree completion rates for for-profit colleges and universities.

The third in a, now, four-part series on the Pell Grant, this brief presents basic data trends, finding that for-profits that predominantly award certificates tend to have higher Pell Grant access and completion rates than other types of for-profits, although research consistently finds certificate programs provide weaker economic returns than other postsecondary credentials. Additionally, this brief finds completion rates for Pell Grant students at for-profits are increasing at a much slower pace (half a percentage point per year) than at public and non-profit institutions.