The Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States: 2021 Historical Trend Report

The Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States: 2021 Historical Trend Report

The report covers historical trends as far back as the data warrant often from the 1970s, on questions of student access, institutional stratification, college cost, funding per student, student debt, college completion and attainment, international comparisons, and federal TRIO services.

2021 Historical Trend Report

Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States

Some key findings from the report include:

  • Pell Recipients Tend to Be in Low Resourced Institutions. On average poor students attend institutions with far fewer resources than rich students. In 2018, 63 percent of Pell Grant recipients were in Broad Access colleges with average spending per FTE of $14,945 while 5 percent of Pell Grant recipients were in Highly Selective institutions with average spending of $52,111. In general, as selectivity increases, Pell receipt declines. [Indicator 3d(ii)]
  • Race/Ethnicity Differences in Types of Colleges Attended. White high school graduates were over 3 times more likely to attend a Most or Highly Selective 4-year institution than Black high school graduates (17 percent vs.5 percent). [Indicator 2g]
  • Inter-generational Black-White Debt and Wealth Gaps Have Life-Long Consequences. Starkly, 10 years after being awarded their bachelor’s degree, over one-third (37 percent) of Black bachelor’s graduates had negative net worth, and 29 percent indicated they had difficulty meeting essential living expenses in the previous 12 months. For White bachelor’s graduates, the comparable rates were 18 percent with negative net worth and 11 percent who reported having difficulty meeting essential monthly expenses. [Indicator 4e(vii]
  • Presentation
  • Shared Dialogue Discussion Guide
  • Data/Charts


The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education of the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the University of Pennsylvania Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (PennAHEAD) announce the release of Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States: 2021 Historical Trend Report.

The purposes of this equity indicators project are to:

  • Report the status of higher education equity in the United States and identify changes over time in measures of equity
  •  Identify policies and practices that promote and hinder progress
  • Illustrate the need for increased support of policies, programs, and practices that improve overall attainment in higher education and create greater equity in higher education opportunities and outcomes.

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The Pell Institute shares the mission of the Council to advance and defend the ideal of equal opportunity in postsecondary education.

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