The University of Washington appeared on an exclusive list last week when the Center on Higher Education Reform named its Seattle and Bothell campuses among just 19 schools that do well on measures of access, affordability and success.
The study looked for colleges in which at least one-quarter of undergraduates were low-income, at least 50 percent of students graduated in six years and where the “net price” for low-income students was less than $10,000.
Only 19 colleges out of 1,700 nationwide made the list.
The study’s authors were looking for schools that performed well on these measures because President Obama has proposed a new college rating system that would appraise colleges on measures of access, affordability and student success. The ratings would govern the allocation of federal student aid dollars.
The purpose of the report wasn’t necessarily to praise a small number of schools that made the grade, but rather to point out that it will be difficult to create an equitable ratings system because it’s hard to improve one of the measures without negatively affecting the others.
One of the report’s takeaways is “just how rare this kind of well-rounded success is in American higher education. Presumably, this status quo is what the President hopes to improve on. The analysis here suggests it will not be easy.”
The report goes on to say that a one-size accountability system could lead schools to focus just on the chosen performance metrics, which could lead to unintended consequences. For example, a school could boost its student success numbers simply by admitting more high-performing students and turning away students whose grades and test scores aren’t as high.
One note: UW parents and students might be scratching their heads over the study’s qualification that the universities had to have a net price of less than $10,000.
With room and board and expenses included, the UW calculates that an in-state resident living away from home will pay $27,000 to attend this year. But the “net price,” which includes room and board, is calculated by subtracting the average amount of state, federal or institutional grant or scholarship aid from the total cost. The UW’s generous financial aid program, the Husky Promise, helps about one-third of low-income, in-state students go to college tuition-free.