Sep 11, 2023 - News

How D.C.-area colleges rank for economic diversity

George Mason University campus

George Mason University scored highest in the region on economic diversity. Photo: Robert Knopes/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Most D.C.-area colleges have made either modest or no gains in enrolling more economically diverse students since more than a decade ago, a new New York Times Magazine analysis suggests.

Why it matters: The data offers a glimpse into universities' commitment to economic diversity as many schools reevaluate their admissions processes in the wake of the Supreme Court striking down race-based affirmative action.

How it works: The Times ranked 286 of the country's most selective universities in order of economic diversity.

  • The rankings are measured by the percentage of freshmen with federal Pell Grants, which are made available to low-income families.

The big picture: Four of the five area schools that made it into the analysis are below the national average when it comes to having an economically diverse student body.

By the numbers: George Mason University is the sole university analyzed punching above the national average of 21%. The school had 28% of freshmen with Pell grants in the 2020-21 school year, up 3 percentage points from 2011.

  • American University: 18%, up by 3
  • George Washington: 17%, up 4
  • Georgetown University: 14%, no change since 2011
  • UMD-College Park: 15%, no change since 2011

Flashback: Several area schools in June said they would work to diversify campuses in spite of the high court ruling that colleges can't explicitly consider applicants' race in admissions.

  • George Mason University went against the grain, saying the school does not consider race in admissions while touting an economically diverse student body.

Between the lines: A paper from Harvard economists earlier this year found children from ultra-wealthy families are 2.9 times more likely to be accepted into Georgetown University compared to others with comparable test scores.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that four area colleges analyzed in the report are below the national average for economic diversity, not five.


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