A Correlational Study on the Impact of the Pell Grant Program on Utah's Public Colleges and Universities Public Deposited

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  • The Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) and the eight public colleges and universities in the system, have depended on the Federal Pell Grant program for more than 40 years to assist students to attend. For some of these institutions, the amount of Pell grant dollars received is as much as 43% of their annual operating budget. The goal of this quantitative correlational study was to test the impact of the Pell Grant program on enrollment at the individual institutions within the system. The researcher used resource dependency theory as a lens to view the collected data. Using a survey design with supplemental collection of readily available data from USHE, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) this quantitative study found a significant correlation between enrollment at Utah's public colleges and universities and Pell Grant dollars received and between enrollment by gender and Pell Grant dollars received. Each of the eight institutions, through their Director of Financial Aid completed a financial aid survey (see Appendix A) in 2010-11 and 2014-15 which provided the needed data to calculate the correlational assessments. Four research questions were developed and the collected data was analyzed to determine if a correlation existed for those questions. Three of the four questions rejected the null hypotheses indicating a very strong relationship between Pell Grant dollars received at an institution and enrollment at that institution. Research question three examined the relationship between institutional budgets and Pell Grant dollars received. Results for this question based on the tests conducted proved no direct correlation between those two factors. Results of the study suggest that the Utah System of Higher Education and the eight colleges and universities that are part of that system: University of Utah, Utah State University, Weber State University, Salt Lake Community College, Utah Valley University, Snow College, Southern Utah University and Dixie State University has a strong correlation between Pell Grant dollars and enrollment. In fact, the study was conducted over a period of five years and the correlation became stronger in the final year of the study when compared to the first. Knowing this can help the system and the individual institutions examine ways to increase and manage enrollment. The information from the study can also be useful in working with students, administrators, policy-makers, and other stake holders in making key decisions around student recruitment, retention and enrollment through Pell Grant dollars, and informing future plans for the Pell Grant program including funding.
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