Sep 11, 2023 - News

New ranking reveals Illinois' most economically diverse colleges

Lake Forest College ranked No. 13 on the New York Times' list of most economically diverse colleges. Photo courtesy of Lake Forest.

Lake Forest College is one of the most economically diverse colleges in the country, according to a new analysis from the New York Times Magazine.

Why it matters: The data offers a glimpse into universities' commitment to economic diversity as many schools reevaluate admissions after the Supreme Court ruled against race-based affirmative action, which supporters believe promoted economic diversity.

How it works: The Times ranked more than 250 universities across the country, including 10 in Illinois, by the proportion of their students who come from economically disadvantaged households.

  • The rankings are based on the percentage of freshmen who received federal Pell Grants, which are made available to low-income families.

Between the lines: A Pell Grant is not like a loan in that it doesn't have to be repaid, except under certain circumstances.

By the numbers: Lake Forest College — a small, private north suburban school — is the highest-ranked Illinois college at No. 13, with 40% of the freshmen receiving Pell Grants in the 2020-21 school year.

  • Yes, but: The school's Pell share fell 2 percentage points over the past decade.
  • Knox College in Galesburg was the next Illinois school on the list, with 35% of its incoming students receiving assistance. That's up 8 percentage points from 2011.
  • The highly selective University of Chicago in Hyde Park is ranked 230. Its Pell share: 14%, down 1 point.

Here's where other schools stood:

  • Northwestern University: 20%, up 5.
  • Loyola University Chicago: 22%, down 7.
  • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign: 26%, up 5.

Context: Across the country, some schools with the least economic diversity worried that they would have to lower admission standards to allow more low-income students, the Times reported. But when they looked at the numbers, that wasn't the case.

  • "There were plenty of low-income kids with high scores that we hadn't been admitting," Holden Thorp, a former provost at Washington University in St. Louis, said.

What they're saying: Lake Forest College president Jill M. Baren tells Axios in a statement that the ranking "shines a light on our continued commitment to widening the path to the liberal arts to all students."

  • "Our community is diverse in many ways, and this creates a dynamic academic learning environment."

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