Pell and Low-Income Thriving

Background image: Five students in blue and gold posing on campus with Oski

Enhancing access and support for low-income students at UC Berkeley

The 2022 Pell Institute Equity Indicators report highlights the increasing presence of students from low-income families in our nation's educational system. The percentage of K-12 students eligible for Free or Reduced-Price Lunches and First-Time Full-Time (FTFT) undergraduates with Pell or other Federal Grants has nearly doubled in recent decades.

While UC Berkeley ranks among the top tier of institutions for economic mobility, the university has experienced a multi-year flat or downward trend in access for low-income students, particularly among Pell Grant recipients. In the academic year 2020-21, Berkeley's percentage of Pell Grant eligible undergraduate students ranked at the bottom 27% among UC campuses.

This decline in enrollment of low-income students has significant implications for Berkeley's public service mission, financial aid revenue, budget allocations, attainment of Minority-Serving Institution (MSI) status, philanthropic opportunities, and alignment with UC 2030 Goals and the requirements of the California Governor & University of California Multi-Year Compact.

Intended Outcomes

  1. Establish a campus-wide understanding of the lived experiences, trends, opportunities, and challenges of low-income students.
  2. Support staff, faculty, and administrators contributing to the success of low-income students.
  3. Create an information hub to socialize efforts and invite contributions from campus leaders.
  4. Identify policies with disparate impacts and recommend modifications.
  5. Provide recommendations to campus leaders and stakeholders for implementation.
  6. Launch short-term, immediately implementable recommendations within the purview of the group's leaders.

Areas of Impact

Outreach & Admission Strategy

Yield, Transition, Success Services Strategy

Financial Aid and Scholarships Strategy

Basic/Essential Needs Strategy

Charge of Work Group

Chancellor Christ charged VCEI Matos and Associate VC Ogundele with addressing the decline in Pell Grant students. The charge involves an expansive analysis of the low-income student pathway experience, considering existing data infrastructure, pipeline analysis, and other relevant factors impacting access, enrollment, and persistence at UC Berkeley.

Executive Sponsors:

  • Vice Chancellor of Equity & Inclusion: Dania Matos
  • Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs: Steve Sutton
  • Associate Vice Chancellor & Dean of Admissions: Olufemi Ogundele


  • Fabrizio Mejia, Associate Vice Chancellor (Equity & Inclusion)
  • Cruz Grimaldo, Associate Vice Chancellor (Student Affairs)
  • Rosalind Johnson, Director of Enrollment Equity & Success (Enrollment Management - Student Affairs)

Operational Definitions of "Low-Income" Students

The workgroup applies an inclusive definition of low-income students, including:

  • Pell Grant Eligible Students
  • Dream Aid Eligible Students
  • Undocumented non-AB540 eligible students awarded aid per state law (4-year period)
  • Students with financial need ineligible for Pell Grant due to maxing out but otherwise eligible.