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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, May 28, 2017

New York Times College Rankings

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.

NY Times

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.

Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink


I wouldn't pay much attention to "economic diversity." That might mean a school filled with future unemployables who are majoring in 'studies' and whining about their victimhood. Avoid that like the poison it is.

Be practical. Look at the ranking of the school in your major and note how successful those majoring in that filed are at getting jobs. If you want to be a civil engineer, go to a school that's consider good in that field. The former 'land-grant' universities, aka 'cow colleges' are often a good choice.

And I would advising avoid California school. Given the way the state is sliding downhill, in a decade or so, having studied there will not be a mark of distinction.

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | May 28, 2017 11:47:24 AM

The reason that the UC system dominates this list is there are an extraordinary number of children of Asian immigrants in the state, and they in turn dominate the undergraduate enrollment in the system. Despite best efforts by the universities to ignore the requirement of Proposition 209 that race must not be considered in admissions decisions, all of the UCs with the exception of the lowest ranking ones like Riverside and Merced are now predominantly Asian.

Posted by: PaulB | May 28, 2017 11:59:56 AM

The country’s most powerful engine of upward mobility

The most powerful engine of upward mobility is not education: It is the innate talent and drive of individuals. Applying to Harvard doesn't make you smart and successful. If you are admitted, you are already well on your way.

Does anyone claim that the Olympics are "the world's most powerful engine of physical fitness?"

Posted by: AMTbuff | May 28, 2017 2:53:27 PM

After partnering with the likes of Richard Vedder, the Cato Institute, New America, AEI and Brookings to demonize higher education, the New York Times has suddenly discovered what labor economists have known since the 1960s--its pretty damn important for the economy.

Posted by: New to you New York Times | May 29, 2017 6:02:05 PM

The New York Times "discovers" that when states impose price controls, the result is shortages. Universities don't exist in a parallel universe where the laws of economics don't apply.

When governments reduce state spending on public education and prevent public universities from increasing tuition to a fair market price, the result is less investment in higher education and overcrowding.

"Single dormitory rooms have been turned into doubles and even triples. Libraries and other common spaces are packed. The university tried to convert an art gallery into a classroom, only to back down after an uproar."

Let tuition go up, or increase funding, and more dorms and classrooms and housing will be built.

Posted by: Price controls cause shortages | May 29, 2017 6:10:46 PM


What about people whose families buy their way into Harvard? Example A: Jared Kushner, whose father (before he was imprisoned by Chris Christie) donated $2.5 million to Harvard the year before Jared, an indifferent student with average SAT scores, by all accounts, somehow got in. See Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Daniel Golden's 2005 book "The Price of Admissions" for more.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | May 30, 2017 9:07:05 AM

@UN, I contend that students who didn't deserve admission to Harvard exit college no smarter than they entered, just like the deserving students. Colleges SELECT smart students; they do not CREATE them. Colleges also select less smart students for reasons good and bad. Caveat employer.

Posted by: AMTbuff | May 30, 2017 2:52:44 PM

When are the colleges and universities going to start ranking the media? I wonder where the NYT would fall on the list?

Posted by: ruralcounsel | May 31, 2017 5:12:03 AM

Mr. ATM Buff: News flash. Schools, colleges, and universities do not make students smarter. In the best of circumstances and outcomes, they educate and/or train their students. As is well-known among the sages of Kentucky, ignorant can be fixed; dumb is forever.

Posted by: Publius Novus | May 31, 2017 6:14:53 AM

@PN: Please re-read what I wrote. I suspect you were skimming it a little too quickly,

Posted by: AMTbuff | Jun 2, 2017 5:37:09 PM