U.S. News has once again taken a look at economic diversity at colleges. Economic diversity is important to some prospective students who want to understand more about the socioeconomic composition of the student body. Economic diversity has recently been getting a great deal of consideration as an important issue in higher ed. Why? Many of the top ranked schools (see links below) within our Best Colleges rankings historically haven't enrolled large numbers of students from low-income families. It's been argued by many that the highest rated colleges and universities should make a much better effort to enroll and then to educate these students, given education's role in being a catalyst for upward social mobility.
To determine economic diversity, U.S. News looks at the percentage of enrolled undergraduate students receiving Pell grants at each school. Many experts believe that the percentage of students receiving Pell grants is the best available gauge of the proportion of low-income undergrads on a given campus. Pell grants are awarded from a federally funded program that gives need-based grants to low-income students and are most often given to undergrads with family incomes under $20,000.
[Read about changes to Pell grants.]
What do the following economic diversity tables really mean? A school that has fewer than 10 percent of its students receiving Pell grants signifies that only a small percentage of its students come from low-income backgrounds. If a school has a large proportion of students receiving Pell grants, 40 percent or more, that could be an indication that its mission is to serve students or geographic areas with families with lower incomes.
[See more in our Paying for College guide.]
These tables show the percentage of fall 2008 undergraduates receiving federal Pell grants in the 2008-2009 academic year at the colleges and universities in these U.S. News ranking categories:
These tables show the economic diversity at the highest ranked schools in the U.S. News ranking categories:
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