The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Which public colleges have the top graduation rates for students in financial need?

For disadvantaged students, getting into a top college is a significant feat. But getting a diploma matters far more.

Among 100 major public universities across the country — state flagships and other prominent schools — only 11 report a six-year graduation rate of at least 80 percent for students with enough financial need to qualify for federal Pell Grants.

The top performer on this measure is the University of Virginia, with a grad rate of 93 percent for Pell recipients, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal data made public Thursday.

Thirty-three of these prominent state schools have Pell grad rates of 50 percent or lower. And the vast majority — 97 percent — have lower Pell grad rates than overall grad rates. Sometimes the gap is quite wide. At the University of Kansas, the six-year grad rate is 63 percent. But for Pell students, it is 48 percent. The university declined to comment.

Below is The Post’s analysis of the data in a sortable chart. A couple of caveats: These grad rates reflect only students who entered a given university as first-time, full-time freshmen in 2010 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree at the same school. They do not include part-time or transfer students. Also, some universities have far more Pell students than others. A relatively small share of freshmen at U-Va. qualify for Pell grants — 12 percent. At the University of California at Berkeley, the share is 23 percent. At the University of Memphis, it’s 49 percent.