President's Blog

Pell Grant recipient graduation rates show Mason is delivering inclusive excellence

With Kirk Heffelmire

A central part of Mason’s mission as the largest and most diverse public university in the state is to provide educational opportunities for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Among all seniors graduating last week, more than one quarter qualified for Pell grants, the Federal financial aid program supporting low-income students. How well are we doing by those students?

A recent study by think tank Third Way, based on federal data of students who entered higher education in fall 2010 validates that we are delivering on our mission.

Pell Grant recipients nationwide have a 49 percent six-year graduation rate compared to non-Pell students who have a 67 percent rate in the most recently available data. This is an 18 percentage-point gap. At Mason, Pell Grant recipients have a 69 percent graduation rate, almost on par with the 70 percent graduation rate of non-Pell students.

In other words, Mason has above national average graduation rates and has virtually no achievement gap based on wealth. Here are some other findings about how Mason compares with other institutions in regard to Pell Grant recipient graduation rate gaps:

  • Mason is in the top 14 percent of all public four-year institutions.
  • Mason is in the top 18 percent of the 115 Carnegie Classification Highest Research Activity institutions.
  • Mason has the second-smallest gap among the 15 Virginia public four-year institutions behind only Old Dominion University (kudos to ODU!) and followed closely by the University of Virginia. All three institutions have gaps of less than 2 percentage points.
  • Mason has a significantly smaller achievement gap compared to the pooled cohort of students at all four-year, all public four-year, all Virginia, all Virginia public, all Virginia public doctoral, and all highest research activity institutions. See the tables below.

By every comparison, Mason has a much smaller than average student graduation gap between Pell and non-Pell students. Serving students of all socioeconomic levels and life circumstances is one of the reasons why Mason has accounted for nearly half of the public university enrollment growth in the state over the past decade.

We are committed to providing opportunities for all students. Continued success in this area is critical to their future – and ours.

The table below shows how Mason compares to various student cohort groups. The values for each group were calculated by pooling all of the students, excluding those at Mason.

Mason National Cohort National Public Cohort Virginia Cohort Virginia Public Cohort Virginia Public Doctoral Cohort Carnegie Highest Research Activity Cohort
Number of Students 2,577 1,427,998 917,083 39,839 27,640 15,879 404,868
Pell Graduation Rate 68.82 48.66 48.78 53.75 59.02 65.62 67.87
Non-Pell Graduation Rate 70.25 66.71 64.86 72.42 76.87 79.64 78.79
Gap -1.43 -18.05 -16.08 -18.67 -17.85 -14.01 -10.92
Share of students receiving Pell grants 25.26 36.22 36.19 28.81 25.70 23.34 26.06


The table below shows how Mason compares to various groups of institutions. The values for each group were calculated by averaging the institutional values after excluding Mason. Unlike the table above, this calculation does not account for any differences in institution size.

Mason National Average by Institution National Public Average by Institution Virginia Average by Institution Virginia Public Average by Institution Virginia Public Doctoral Average by Institution Carnegie Highest Research Activity Average by Institution
Number of Institutions 1 1,565 536 41 14 5 114
Pell Graduation Rate 68.82 48.58 45.09 53.68 62.51 73.24 72.42
Non-Pell Graduation Rate 70.25 55.57 53.20 58.10 68.77 77.19 78.74
Gap -1.43 -7.07 -8.11 -4.43 -6.26 -3.95 -6.28
Share of students receiving Pell grants 25.26 43.46 42.15 36.92 31.08 23.19 25.31


The table below shows how Mason ranks among various groups according to the graduation rate gaps between students who do or do not receive Pell grants.

Mason is… Total Percentile Rank
National 344th out of 1566 21.97%
National Public 71st out of 537 13.22%
Virginia 11th out of 42 26.19%
Virginia Public 2nd out of 15 13.33%
Virginia Public Doctoral 2nd out of 6 33.33%
Carnegie Highest Research Activity 20th out of 112 17.86%