The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Lafayette among lowest in nation for Pell grant recipients

Lafayette is one of the most expensive colleges in America. (Graphic by Elisabeth Seidel ’26 for The Lafayette)

The Chronicle of Higher Education,” an independent media site for news about American colleges and universities, recently published an article ranking American colleges and universities by the percentage of students that received Pell grants, a form of federal financial aid, to assist in payment for higher education. Lafayette was ranked 11th among the 20 colleges and universities with the lowest percentage of Pell grant recipients.  

Pell grants are “awarded only to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need,” according to the United States Department of Education. Because these grants are federally distributed, they are awarded independently of colleges and universities that recipients attend. Students can apply for grants through FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Pell grants range “from $692 to $6,895,” as stated on Lafayette’s admission website

Because Pell grants are only awarded to students whose families would otherwise struggle to support the high cost of attendance at many colleges and universities, the percentage of Pell grant recipients at school can be used as a loose representation of the socioeconomic diversity at a college or university.

Lafayette College is one of the most expensive colleges in the United States. The cost of attendance for the 2022-2023 academic year is $75,954, which places it on this list of the 100 most expensive colleges in the United States at number 76. Despite efforts in place to make the opportunity of higher education more accessible to students with lower-income backgrounds through financial aid, scholarships and grants, many of these schools still remain monolithic in the socioeconomic background of their student body, including at Lafayette.

According to the New York Times, the median family income for a student at Lafayette is $205,600, which is among the highest incomes in Pennsylvania and among Patriot League colleges. The median family income in Pennsylvania was $67,587 from 2017-2021. Additionally, among Pennsylvania colleges, Lafayette was ranked fourth out of 142 for the number of families that received annual income over $630,000, referred to by the Times as “the one percent.”

These types of statistics are common among many elite colleges and universities, including those with low Pell grant recipiency among students.

However, according to both vice president of enrollment management Forrest Stuart and director of financial aid Shelby Maguire, Pell grant recipiency of a student body is not the only indicator of economic diversity at colleges and universities. 

“There are many students who fall short of the Pell Grant expected family contribution cutoff, yet we still meet 100% of their demonstrated need,” Stuart wrote in an email.  

According to Maguire, Lafayette is one of about 70 colleges and universities that meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need. The goal of providing this aid is to make Lafayette accessible to students from all economic backgrounds. The total financial aid budget last year was $63.4 million, with 77 percent of that budget being allocated to need-based aid. Of that $63.4 million, $17.9 million was awarded to the class of 2025. For comparison to other expensive elite colleges, Vassar College, with a cost of attendance at $81,360, had a financial aid budget for the class of 2026 of $19.5 million, and 57.1% of that budget went to need-based aid. 

Despite the low ranking for the 2020-2021 academic year, Stuart predicts that Pell grant recipiency for students will only increase as Lafayette works to extend its financial aid.

We are well toward our goal to increase the representation of Pell Grant recipients to at least 15% (across the entire student body),” Stuart wrote. “The Fall 2022 first year class was 10.7% Pell-Eligible. The goal for the Fall 2023 first year class is 12.5%.” 

While Lafayette’s Pell grant recipiency is low, the Office of Financial Aid is working to constantly improve Lafayette’s access to students. Meeting 100 percent of demonstrated financial need is already a very rare initiative at colleges and universities, and there are still plans in place to continue expanding the range of financial accessibility. 

“We will need to discuss what is truly a ‘Lafayette College experience,'” Maguire said. “From there, we will need to determine what resources are available to help students partake in that experience.”

Correction 01/31/23: A previous version of this article stated that the financial aid budget for the class of 2025 was $63.4 million. This was actually the total financial aid budget. The total awarded to the class of 2025 was $17.9 million.

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Selma O’Malley, News Editor
Waiting for someone to write a sitcom about a college newspaper.

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