A study comparing the number of low-income students at top universities found the UC system beyond comparison.

UC schools ranked one through six in the study released Wednesday by Tom Mortenson of Postsecondary Education Opportunity, a national newsletter on access to higher education. Mortenson compared the percentage of students receiving federal Pell grants at the top 50 American universities, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Pell grants are awarded to students from families whose earnings are usually below $35,000.

Los Angeles topped the list with 35.1 percent of students receiving Pell grants, followed by Berkeley (32.4 percent), Irvine (31.5), Davis (28.5), San Diego (28.3) and UCSB (24.8).

The University of Southern California was the highest-ranked non-UC school, with 24.1 percent Pell recipients. The top 50 schools averaged 17.9 percent, with Harvard the lowest at 6.8 percent.

A UC press release attributed the strong showing to several factors, including some programs that are up for reduction under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget. These include the Cal Grant system, which is set for a $3.5 million reduction in total awards this year from last, and outreach programs, which Schwarzenegger proposes to eliminate entirely.

“This success story is in jeopardy,” according to the UC release. “UC continues to press its case in Sacramento and will do everything within its means to preserve a strong financial aid program for its students.”