Washington Monthly, Robert Kelchen: “…we created our “Best Bang for the Buck” ranking—our exclusive list of the colleges in America that do the best job of helping nonwealthy students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices. And it is a pretty exclusive list: out of the 1,572 colleges and universities in our broader rankings, only 349 made the cut as best-bang-for-the-buck schools. (See the full list here.) To get on our list, colleges have to meet four criteria. First, to make sure they aren’t just catering to the affluent, at least 20 percent of their students must be receiving Pell Grants, which go to students of modest means (typically those with annual household incomes below $50,000). Second, they must have a graduation rate of at least 50 percent—hardly an exacting standard, but a fair one considering that we’re requiring that a fifth of their student body have lower incomes, a demographic that tends to graduate in lower numbers. Third, each school’s actual graduation rate must meet or exceed the rate that would be statistically predicted for that school given the number of lower-income students admitted (among other things, this calculation assures that schools with more than the minimum 20 percent of Pell students aren’t penalized). Fourth, to make sure their graduates are earning enough in the workforce to at least cover their student loans, schools must have a student loan default rate of 10 percent or less.”
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