New York Times Sunday Review, Top Colleges Doing the Most for the American Dream:
Welcome to the third annual College Access Index. It's a New York Times ranking of colleges — those with a five-year graduation rate of at least 75 percent — based on their commitment to economic diversity. The ranking is based on a combination of the number of lower-and middle-income students that a college enrolls and the price it charges these students. The top of the ranking is dominated by campuses in the University of California system, while the most diverse private colleges include Amherst, Pomona, Harvard and Vassar. Notably, a college's endowment does not determine its commitment to economic diversity. There are wealthy colleges and much less wealthy ones at both the top and bottom of the ranking.
New York Times Sunday Review, The Assault on Colleges — and the American Dream:
The country’s most powerful engine of upward mobility is under assault.
Public colleges have an unmatched record of lofting their students into the middle class and beyond. For decades, they have enrolled teenagers and adults from modest backgrounds, people who are often the first member of their family to attend college, and changed their trajectories.
Over the last several years, however, most states have cut their spending on higher education, some drastically. Many public universities have responded by enrolling fewer poor and middle-class students — and replacing them with affluent students who can afford the tuition. ...
The decline of economic diversity at top public colleges is the clearest pattern in The Times’s third annual ranking of leading colleges — the roughly 170 nationwide with a five-year graduation rate of at least 75 percent. (Yes, you can be disappointed that so few colleges clear that bar.)
The ranking, called the College Access Index, is based on how many low- and middle-income students colleges graduate and how much those students must pay. The index is a measure of which top institutions are doing the most to promote the American dream.
Many are doing less than they once did. At the public colleges in the index, the average share of last year’s freshman class receiving Pell grants — which means they typically come from the bottom half of the income distribution — fell to 21.8 percent, from 24.3 percent in 2011-12. Campuses with declining economic diversity include the Universities of Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin, as well as Binghamton, Ohio State and Rutgers.
By comparison, the Pell share has recently held roughly constant at top private colleges, around 16 percent.
Some of the biggest declines have been in the University of California system, which has long been the most economically diverse place in elite higher education. On the San Diego campus five years ago, 46 percent of freshmen received Pell grants. Last year, the share had dropped to 26 percent. When I first saw that number in The Times database, I figured it was a typo. ...
The story in California is a bit more nuanced, but still disappointing, particularly given the state university’s history. Since its founding, during a burst of national investment during and just after Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, no other university in the world has combined academic excellence and broad access so well.
John Aubrey Douglass, an education scholar, describes that combination as “the California idea.” The top five colleges in this year’s College Access Index ranking are still University of California campuses: Irvine, Santa Barbara, Davis, San Diego and Los Angeles. Berkeley ranks ninth, while the private colleges in the top 10 are Amherst, Pomona and Harvard.
Yet even as California remains a leader, it is also inching away from its legacy.
With state support down, university leaders have decided that their least bad option is to enroll more high-income students. In only four years, undergraduate enrollment in the University of California system has risen 15 percent, or by 27,000 students. The expansion has allowed the colleges to continue enrolling similar numbers of lower-income students, rather than displacing those students, but it has created severe crowding.