The New York Times recently announced yet another ranking, this one a “College Access Index,” measuring accessibility for students with high financial need. The index measures the number of students receiving Pell Grants, percentage of students who graduate within six years, and the average net price paid by parents earning between $30-48,000.
Colleges which rank highly on the much touted US News & World Report ranking may not rank highly on the College Access Index. For example, Princeton ranked #1 in National Universities, but was tied for 34th while #1 US News ranked college, Williams, ranked 15th on the College Access Index. In other words, a large endowment alone does not necessarily translate into the greatest access for economically disadvantaged students; institutional commitment to financial aid an recruitment of needy students does.
On the other hand, economically needy students are extremely well served in life by graduating from a US New & World Report top-ranked college or university. David Leonhardt, director of the College Access Index project, wrote “…for upper middle class students, the particular college they attend may have little effect on their earnings, but it does seem to matter for poor students. They get something extra from a top college.”
The colleges ranked by the New York Times serve only 4% of undergraduates, so much more research and ranking needs to be done.