Georgetown fell a spot outside the top 20 in this year’s U.S. News and World Report college rankings, but another set of rankings released this week put the university far outside its top schools.
The New York Times released a list ranking colleges by their accessibility to a socioeconomically diverse population. Georgetown fell 46th in the College Access Index, which the Times calculated using the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants, the net price of attendance and the endowment per student for each college. By this metric, Georgetown performed worse than most Ivy League universities, but better than all the Catholic universities that the Times assessed.
The most prudent angle in considering this assessment of the Hilltop is to understand how we measured up against what we often consider to be our peer institutions, and what can be done to achieve a more diverse campus.
First, it is impossible to achieve a true comparison with many of the other listed schools without considering the qualifying parameter of endowment per student, which often enables institutions of higher education to fund scholarships that improve accessibility to those who cannot afford a full tuition bill. Georgetown has a shockingly low ratio in this respect, at $80,000 per student, which is as much as 20 times less than the most competitive Northeastern schools, like Yale and Harvard.
Another influential factor taken into account for the Times’ list was the percentage of students receiving federal Pell Grants. In this criterion, Georgetown sits at a remarkably average 14 percent, squarely between the most impressive schools — like Susquehanna University — where 25 percent of students receive Pell Grants, and Washington University in St. Louis, where 6 percent receive them.
Because Pell Grants are typically given to students with lower-class to middle-class socioeconomic backgrounds who graduate from public high schools or GED programs, this metric might be seen as a reliable indicator of a university’s ambition to attract and retain students from diverse socioeconomic environments. But, as Dean of Admissions Charles Deacon pointed out, only a small percentage of those Pell-eligible students meet Georgetown’s admissions standards. As such, only a small share of applicants fall into both categories and can receive Pell Grants once at Georgetown.
These rankings present an important counter-perspective on the U.S. News and World Report rankings that send colleges into a tizzy every year. As Georgetown works to do more with its relatively small endowment — but certainly with more resources than many of the institutions on The New York Times’ list — these rankings can help administrators and admissions officers make sure socioeconomic diversity is among the types of diversity they are seeking when building each freshman class.