The Pell Institute

The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, the research arm of the Council for Opportunity in Education, conducts and disseminates research and policy analysis to encourage policymakers, educators, and the public to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for students from low-income backgrounds, first-generation college students, and students with disabilities.


The Pell Institute Release of 2024 Equity Indicators Report is Coming Soon!

Join the Pell Institute for an in-person presentation and panel discussion Thursday, May 9 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. ET at the Washington Marriott Georgetown featuring experts on equity within post-secondary education who will discuss themes emerging from the 2024 Equity Indicators report. The pressing theme for this year’s report is: “The Paradox of U.S. Higher Education: Confronting Realities, Exploring Solutions. RSVP at the link below by Friday, May 3.  

Washington Marriott Georgetown
Room: Metropolitan Galleries 1-2
1221 22nd St NW
Washington, DC 20037

Register here


The Pell Institute Release of 2024 Equity Indicators Report is Coming Soon!

The Institute will host a webinar on Monday, May 13 at 2:00 p.m. ET, highlighting data from the 2024 Equity Indicators report, such as enrollment declines, student debt, trends in TRIO funding and participants, and more! See webinar details below. 

Register here


Council for Opportunity in Education’s Vice President of Research and Director of the Pell Institute, Dr. Terry Vaughan III, Appointed to uAspire Board

The Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) announced the appointment of Terry Vaughan III, Ph.D., vice president of research at COE and director of the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, to the national board of uAspire, a prominent nonprofit organization focused on enhancing college affordability and eliminating financial barriers for students. Vaughan will bring his extensive expertise and commitment to educational equity to his new role as a national board member for uAspire. With a mission aligned closely with the Council for Opportunity in Education, uAspire has consistently championed the cause of first-generation college students and those from low-income backgrounds.



From College to Careers: The Pell Institute Receives $748,000 Ascendium Grant to Explore Career Development within TRIO Programs

April 7, 2023

This research aims to provide a framework to help postsecondary institutions develop sustainable and equitable career pathways through strategic career exploration and development programming.


Erick Montenegro

Leading Improvements in Higher Education podcast features Pell Institute Associate Director Erick Montenegro for its latest episode.

Leading improvements in higher education is important to ensure the quality of education, enhance global competitiveness, have a positive societal impact, drive research and innovation, and promote lifelong learning. On the latest episode of Leading Improvements in Higher Education with Stephen Hundley, Erick Montenegro, associate director of The Pell Institute, discusses how leaders can move the needle when it comes to equity.

Listen to the episode here

Stay Connected

The Pell Institute is the first research institute to specifically examine the issues affecting educational opportunity for low-income, first-generation, and disabled college students. Learn more about the Pell Institute, including our mission, purpose, goals, and history.



Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States: 2022 Historical Trend Report

This 2022 edition is the 8th in the current series, begun in 2015. This publication brings together again in partnership the Pell Institute with the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy of the University of Pennsylvania (PennAHEAD). Both organizations have a core mission to promote a more open, equitable, and democratic system of higher education. The Pell Institute, with its historical and ongoing ties to the federal TRIO programs, has a special mission to promote more opportunity for low-income and first-generation students, and students with disabilities.

Download the Report

The purposes of this equity indicators project are to: 1) Report the status of higher education equity in the United States and identify changes over time in measures of equity; 2) Identify policies and practices that promote and hinder progress; and 3) Illustrate the need for increased support of policies, programs, and practices that not only improve overall attainment in higher education but also create greater equity in higher education opportunity and outcomes.

The 2018 Indicators report added data describing higher education equity by U.S. state. The 2019 to 2022 Indicators reports continue and expand the inclusion of state data. Considering indicators of equity by state is essential given the many differences across the 50 states in historical, demographic, economic, and political characteristics, as well as the characteristics of their K-12 and higher education systems.

Indicators reports 2015 to 2019 presented a number of indicators for all students and for dependent students. In the 2020 and 2022 Indicators report, we added disaggregation by dependency status (dependent, independent without dependents, and independent with dependents) where data are available.

The 2021 and 2022 Indicators reports also include historical data on the Federal TRIO programs. Data are presented for each of the programs on numbers served, percent of eligible students served, funding levels, and characteristics of students served. Data presented also include the results of the most recent evaluations on college entrance and completion.

In addition to providing longitudinal indicators of equity, the Indicators project is also intended to advance conversations about effective policies and practices for improving equity in higher education opportunities and outcomes. To this end, the Indicators reports periodically include essays intended to connect the indicators to current policy debates. Reflecting the UNESCO Right to Higher Education (RTHE) theme, the 2022 Indicators report includes a brief essay entitled: The Right to Higher Education: Key Challenges in the U.S. Context and Suggested Principles in a Global Context. In 2018, the Indicators project launched the Improving Equity in Higher Education Search for Solutions Blog hosted by PennAHEAD to further advance the discussion of creating meaningful improvements in higher education equity.


Discover cutting-edge research findings and participate in engaging discussions on topics ranging from access and affordability to student success and retention.