RD433 - Improving Efforts to Recruit and Retain Pell-eligible Students in Virginia Final Report – July 1, 2023

Executive Summary:

By many objective measures, Virginia has one of the nation’s strongest public higher education systems. With the second highest postsecondary graduation rate in the U.S., Virginia generates $21 in state revenue for every $1 of state investment in higher education, boasts a $36 million annual contribution to its economic output from its higher education system, and is considered a top-performing higher education system by 82% of Virginians (Virginia Business Higher Education Council). Yet, despite these notable achievements, economic equity and opportunity remain the Achilles heel of Virginia’s higher education system; research shows that many of the state’s postsecondary institutions do not sufficiently serve low-income students and Pell Grant recipients, “leading to ‘de facto economic segregation’ in higher education" (SCHEV, 2021).

To address this challenge and enhance efforts to recruit and retain students eligible for the Pell Grant, the Virginia General Assembly established a competitive grant program during the 2022 session, with a budget of $250,000 for FY2023 and $25 million allocated for FY2024. Institutions that wish to receive funding must demonstrate their commitment to restructuring outreach, recruitment, admission and retention procedures. The funds can be used to support initiatives that attract, enroll and retain low-income students.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) was tasked with collaborating with institutions that have lower-than-average enrollment of Pell-eligible students to create customized plans for recruiting and retaining low-income students. Additionally, SCHEV was instructed to partner with a nationally recognized consultant who specializes in this area. Following a request for proposal (RFP) process, HCM Strategists (HCM) and its partners were chosen by SCHEV to implement the initial year's activities related to the initiative.