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Pell Grants and Student Success: Evidence from the Universe of Federal Aid Recipients

Amanda Eng and Jordan Matsudaira

Journal of Labor Economics, 2021, vol. 39, issue S2, S413 - S454

Abstract: The Federal Pell Grant Program lowers the cost of higher education for low-income students. We estimate Pell’s average effect for the universe of federally aided students—the broadest swath of higher education studied to date. Exploiting discontinuities and kinks in the grant schedule, we find that the effect of Pell on completion rates and postcollege earnings is much smaller than the findings of recent prominent studies focused on specific states. We argue that interactions between Pell grants and state aid programs may explain this difference, underscoring the importance of understanding how the impact of financial aid depends on context.

Date: 2021
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