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UCR a National Pell Grant Leader

UCR a National Leader for Pell Grant Recipients

The federal need-based program supports more than half of Riverside undergraduates.

(October 1, 2010)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The University of California, Riverside enrolls more students, on a percentage basis, who depend on federal, need-based Pell Grants than any of the nation’s top 100 universities ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

That underscores the commitment of UC Riverside and the University of California to make a college education accessible to all qualifying students, regardless of socioeconomic background, said James Sandoval, vice chancellor for student affairs.

In 2008-09, the last year for which comparison data are available, a total of 6,602 students – 42 percent of UCR undergraduates – received Pell Grants. That is 895 more students than the combined total for the top eight universities in the U.S. News & World Report rankings – Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, CalTech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And it is more than five times the number of Pell recipients as the University of Virginia, and more than twice the number enrolled at the University of Michigan in the same academic year.

That percentage has increased significantly in the last two years, according to a UC analysis of admissions data released today. In fall 2009, 47 percent of UC Riverside undergraduates received Pell Grants. That percentage rose this fall to 54 percent – 9,904 students.

Systemwide, approximately 70,000 students enrolled at University of California campuses – 39 percent of all undergraduates – have been awarded Pell Grants, the highest number and percentage in UC history, according to the UC analysis.

Federal Pell Grants are awarded to low-income students whose family incomes typically fall below $50,000 a year.

Two seniors attending UC Riverside said the federal aid program, in combination with state and UC aid for low-income students, made it possible to pursue a university degree, and their dreams. Both plan to attend graduate school.

Adrian Cazares, a 21-year-old political science major from Lake Elsinore, said both of his parents work, but their combined income is half of the median family income in California. A younger sibling also attends UCR.

Planning a career in higher education student affairs, the fourth-year student said he wants to “inspire and guide students through their college years and provide something meaningful for all students to gain something from other than academics. I like working in student affairs, especially programming, orientation and leadership.”

While attending classes full time he has worked as a campus tour guide, a new-student orientation leader, a programming assistant for First Year & Commuter Programs, and director of special events and current chairperson of the Associated Students Program Board (ASPB).

A Pell Grant and other need-based aid allows him to live on campus, “gain responsibility, make memories to last me a lifetime, receive a bachelor’s degree in the spring and given me opportunities that I would not have been able to get anywhere else. All of these experiences have shaped the person I have become and given me an experience I will never forget. For that I am very grateful for the Pell Grant.”

Gerardo Medina, a 21-year-old business administration major with a concentration in arts management, is considering several career options – including owning a business – none of which would be possible without the financial assistance provided by the Pell Grant.

One of his dreams is to launch a nonprofit organization that would create a network of hiphop artists to encourage rappers and hiphop entertainers to give back to the neighborhoods they sing about. “Many hiphop artists rap about ghettos, make money from the ghettos, and then forget about the ghettos,” said Medina, who is the ASPB director of concerts. “We, as a community, need to hold rappers/hiphop artists accountable. We need to be proactive to help save lives.”

“The Pell Grant makes all of these goals realistic; period. If I did not have the Pell Grant, I would not be able to attend a four-year university,” said the Riverside resident, who is in his fourth year at UCR. “My family does not have the capability financially to send me to any university. So I owe all of these opportunities to the financial aid I receive, and I am immensely grateful for it.”

More than half of UCR students are the first in their family to attend a four-year college. U.S. News & World Report ranks the campus fourth in the nation and first in California for the diversity of its student population. Last month the Washington, D.C.-based Education Trust named UC Riverside a national leader in graduating African-American and Hispanic students at approximately the same rate, or better, than white students. Two-thirds of all students graduate within six years.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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