According to the New York Times recent diversity rankings, the following colleges and universities have made the greatest efforts to admit students from economically diverse backgrounds, meaning, a larger share of low-income families. The schools were chosen based on the number of students receiving Pell Grants (students must be in the bottom 40% of the income distribution to be eligible) and the net price of attendance for low- and middle-income families.
3. UNC – Chapel Hill
7. St. Mary’s (Indiana)
The New York Times lead article on these rankings states the importance of the efforts made by these schools:
“This education gap is a problem not only for the teenagers on the wrong end of it. It’s a problem for the American economy. The economic differences between college graduates and everyone else have reached record levels. Yet for many low-income children – even many who get A’s in high school and do well on the SAT – college remains out of reach. No wonder that upward mobility is less common in the United States than in many other rich countries.”
A few more highlights:
• 23% of students at Vassar’s freshmen received federal Pell grants. In 2007, that number was only at 12%. Lower income students pay roughly $6,000 per year for tuition, much of which is earned through loans and campus jobs.
• Only 8% of students at Washington University in St. Louis receive Pell grants (compared to 6% and 5% in the last few years), even though this school is ranked as one of the top 25 riches colleges in the U.S. The point: Just because a school has a high endowment, that doesn’t mean that it is more likely to open its doors to lower-income students. In fact, Susquehanna (who has the highest number of Pell-eligible students at 25%) and Wesleyan (at 18%) have relatively small endowments and students from lower-income families make up a rather large part of the student body.
• In 2008, only one out of three high achieving (top 4%) low-income high school seniors attended a selective college.
An Inside Higher Ed article on the subject offers the following points:
• To make the list, schools had to have a four-year graduation rate of 75% or higher; therefore, some schools with high Pell-eligible student populations weren’t ranked, in particular, UC Berkeley which has more than 27% of students on Pell Grants. (But only a 71% four year graduation rate.)
• 46% of students at CUNY Baruch receive Pell Grants, but they too were under the 75% limit (by far, at 39%).
• The article points out that only three public institutions made it to the list – University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary (also in Virginia), and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.