A recent national ranking of colleges that increase economic mobility for low- and moderate-income students has found that Augusta University tops many traditional academic powerhouses by a significant margin.
Students considering college options in the Southeast often see institutions like University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Georgia, Vanderbilt University and Duke University near the top of lists ranking the best destinations for higher education based on metrics like student experience, estimated degree worth, average salary after graduation and scholarships endowed to the university.
Augusta University ranks 62nd out of 1,320 universities across the country – well ahead of UNC-Chapel Hill at 281, UGA at 432, Vanderbilt at 616 and Duke at 722.
Other notable regional institutions include Georgia Southern University at 240, University of South Carolina at 501, Clemson University at 713 and Georgia Tech at 743. Out of the Ivy League schools that always top the U.S. News & World Report rankings, Princeton University checks in at 426, Yale University 495 and Harvard University 847.
“In addition to offering affordable tuition, Augusta University has added or strengthened programs that open new pathways of educational opportunity and success, particularly for those students who come from low- and moderate-income backgrounds,” said Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs Susan Davies, PhD.
“Our Four-to-Finish initiative, for example, meets students where they are and trains them to get to where they’re going by encouraging them to implement four critical steps: engage, make purposeful choices, develop an academic mindset and follow their program pathway to success.
“Other programs offered through our Department of Multicultural Student Engagement include our Multicultural Mentorship Program, African American Male Initiative, First Generation Student Week, our Center for Health Professions Outreach and the POPUPS Scholars Program. All of these initiatives, combined with a student-centered and inclusive culture, create an environment that lifts students up and allows them to thrive.”
The Economic Mobility Index
The Economic Mobility Index rankings, created by the Third Way think tank, looked at the percentage of low- and moderate-income students a university serves and the time it takes those students to earn enough to pay off the cost of their degree based on the extra earnings they achieved by attending that university.
First, a Price-to- Earnings Premium is calculated for each school. The PEP measures how long it takes on average for low-income students attending a given college to recoup the costs of paying for their education.
Of Augusta University’s 5,463 undergraduate students, 2,155 received Pell grants (39.5%) for a low-income PEP percentile rank – 91.7%.
The EMI defines the value a college provides based on the proportion of lower-income students it enrolls, in addition to the economic benefit they receive.
The exact formula for the price-to-earnings premium calculation is total average net price / (post-enrollment earnings – typical salary of a high school graduate) = number of years to recoup net cost.
According to Third Way, serving low- and moderate-income students well in terms of upward socioeconomic mobility is foundational to the mission of higher education.
Georgia Degrees Pay
The University System of Georgia has also launched a new tool to help students and families work through critical decisions about college affordability and value.
The new website Georgia Degrees Pay provides an array of public data on Georgia’s 26 public colleges and universities and allows comparisons about the overall cost to attend college, majors and fields of study, average student borrowing and average career earnings of USG graduates.
USG Chancellor Sonny Perdue said the site includes tools to compare cost of attendance, future earnings and student success.
“As one of the best public university systems in the nation, the University System of Georgia is leading the nation in giving students, families and stakeholders in-depth access to data in a centralized, easy to use and transparent fashion,” Perdue said. “Georgia Degrees Pay puts helpful data about degree attainment, student success, costs and affordability at their fingertips, making it easier for them to decide how college can help them obtain greater prosperity and career growth.”