Ensuring college access amid rising tuition costs has hovered near the top of the nation’s education agenda for years. Facing heightened concern about the student debt burden and disappointing college graduation rates, policymakers are hungry for fresh ideas. Federal Pell Grants, the primary means for subsidizing college tuition for low-income students, meanwhile, cover only a small fraction of students’ costs at most institutions. In this forum, Isabel Sawhill, co-director of the Center on Children and Families and the Budgeting for National Priorities Project at the Brookings Institution, calls for conditioning Pell Grants on both financial need and the likelihood of college completion. Offering a critical take on Sawhill’s proposal is Sara Goldrick-Rab, associate professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin.

• Isabel Sawhill: Target Aid to Students Most Likely to Succeed

• Sara Goldrick-Rab: Conditional Pell Dollars Miss Students Who Need Them Most


This article appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Education Next. Suggested citation format:

Sawhill, I., and Goldrick-Rab, S. (2014). Should Pell Grants Target the College-Ready? Education Next, 14(2), 59-64.

Last updated February 12, 2014