The Department of Education Institute of Education Science (IES) is using random assignment to test the impact of two Pell Grant access experiments on educational attainment, student debt, employment, and earnings. The Department of Labor (DOL) is contributing funds to this experiment. For more information, visit https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/projects/evaluation/pathways_pell.asp

  • Experiment 1 temporarily expands eligibility for Pell Grants to students who already possess a bachelor's degree (BA), are unemployed or underemployed, and who enroll in vocational or career programs.
  • Experiment 2 temporarily expands eligibility for Pell Grants to students who enroll in certain short-term vocational or career training programs.


  • Federal Pell Grants are considered the foundation of higher education financial aid for low-income students.
  • Grants are available to those with family incomes up to $60,000, but most Pell awards go to students with family incomes below $30,000.
  • Not all income-eligible students are able to obtain a Pell Grant. With unemployment above 8 percent in 2011, and indications of unfilled openings for skilled jobs in some occupations, higher education institutions have called for expanding Pell Grants to help fill the skills training gap for low-income workers.


  • Higher education institutions identify students eligible for these two experiments.
  • Randomly assign students to receive a Pell Grant or not to receive a Pell Grant in their financial aid package.
  • Collect student administrative data from higher education institutions, student administrative data from the Office of Federal Student Aid, earnings data from the Social Security Administration, and survey data from a subsample of study participants.

Project Duration: 6 years

Contract End Date: March 1, 2019

Contractor: Social Policy Research Associates and Mathematica Policy Research

For More Information: ChiefEvaluationOffice@dol.gov


The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) sponsors independent evaluations and research, primarily conducted by external, third-party contractors in accordance with the Department of Labor Evaluation Policy. CEO’s research development process includes extensive technical review at the design, data collection and analysis stage, including: external contractor review and OMB review and approval of data collection methods and instruments per the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), Institutional Review Board (IRB) review to ensure studies adhere to the highest ethical standards, review by academic peers (e.g., Technical Working Groups), and inputs from relevant DOL agency and program officials and CEO technical staff. Final reports undergo an additional independent expert technical review and a review for Section 508 compliance prior to publication. The resulting reports represent findings from this independent research and do not represent DOL positions or policies.