Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pell Grants, Test Scores, and Graduation Rates

The graph below shows the relationship between SAT scores and college graduation rates for US colleges and universities. As expected, schools with high test scores have high graduation rates. Also, a surprising number of US schools have six-year graduation rates below 50%.

The color of each point represents the percentage of students qualifying for Pell Grants- students from low income families. There is a clear relationship; schools with high test scores and graduation rates are much less likely to admit low income students.

There are notable outliers. For example, there are three light-blue (high poverty) schools with graduation rates above 80%. These schools have both high levels of low-income students and high graduation rates relative to their incoming SAT scores. Even more notable, all three of these schools are in the University of California system (San Diego, Davis, and Irvine). Other UC schools also have high Pell Grant rates relative to their nearby peers.

Further investigation reveals schools in the California State system also over-perform on this graph. UC and Cal State schools appear to be unique environments. Another common factor is relatively high levels of Asian and Hispanic students. I'm interested in learning how much of their high performance is due to effective system policies and how much is due to a local population high in Asian and Hispanic immigrants.

To learn more about these graphs, underlying data, and their interpretation, see this post.

To further explore this data, use the graph below. Notice the graph has filters on the right for state and enrollment, and can display SAT or ACT scores. Hover over the upper left for zoom controls. There is also a fact sheet on each school- hover over any school for a link.

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