Arne Duncan: 'Love to See' Extra Federal Dollars for Schools That Graduate Pell Grant Recipients

By Susan Jones | March 17, 2014 | 7:55 AM EDT

Education Secretary Arne Duncan. (AP Photo)

( - Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he's still working on a college rating system that will tie billion of dollars in federal financial aid to "outcomes" such as graduation rates and the number of students on Pell Grants.

"In the current budget that the president proposed in 2015 -- this has never happened; we'd love to see it happen -- is additional dollars going to universities that are graduating Pell Grant recipients," Duncan told reporters at the White House on Friday.

Duncan said the goal of the rating system is to shift federal financial support to "those places that are doing a good job," not just on access to college, but on completion.

"So Pell Grant recipients -- often first-generation college-goers, more financial needs, often more disadvantaged. The goal is not to just have them enroll. The goal is to get that diploma at the back end. So want to do more in that space. And the president is challenging us to do better there."

President Obama's FY 2015 budget proposal describes the Pell Grant program as "the cornerstone of federal efforts to make a post-secondary education affordable for low-income students."

For FY 2015, the administration is requesting $22.8 billion in discretionary funds as well as $6.4 billion in mandatory funds for the Pell Grant program. Total funding of $29.2 billion would provide Pell Grant awards to nearly 8.9 million students during the 2015-2016 award year, while increasing the maximum Pell Grant award to an expected $5,830, up from $5,730 in the 2014-2015 school year and $5,645 in the current  school year.

A federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid. The maximum amount a student receives is based on financial need, the cost of the school, and other factors that are not merit-related.

Duncan said the college rating system, announced by President Obama last August, is still in the early stages of development:

"We've had dozens and dozens of meetings with higher ed experts and students and faculty and presidents," Duncan said. "It's tough, it's complicated, and we're going to really think it through carefully. We'll come out with a draft, you know, down the road a little bit...get public comment. We take that feedback very seriously. And so we're still in the early stages there, but spending huge amount of time and energy, and it's a fascinating body of work."

Also See:
Obama: Feds Will Define What a Good College Is, Punish and Reward Accordingly

Duncan on New College Ratings System: 'I Can Promise You, We Won't Do It Perfectly'