In response to the U.S. News and World Report National University Rankings, The New York Times will release its own college ranking system, focusing on socioeconomic diversity, at its Schools for Tomorrow conference Sept. 8 in New York City. The rankings will be based on the ability of the universities to attract underprivileged students.

Georgetown has placed reliably around number 20 for years on the U.S. News rankings, which measures average class size, retention rate, student SAT/ACT scores and graduation rate as well as faculty salaries, financial resources and alumni giving rates.

David Leonhardt, managing editor of The Upshot, The Times’ website on politics, policy and economics that has produced the rankings, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that the ranking is not meant to be comprehensive but rather aims to highlight the pursuit of greater socioeconomic diversity in higher education.

“We’re in no way trying to compete with the various ‘best school’ rankings out there,” Leonhardt told The Chronicle.

University of Florida President Bernie Machen, who will speak on a panel after the rankings are revealed, told The Hoya that “underprivileged” refers in an abstract sense to students of “different life experiences and different backgrounds” and, more concretely, is based largely upon the percentage of students receiving Federal Pell Grants. He agreed that The New York Times’ rankings are not aiming to determine definitely the best colleges for students to attend.

“They don’t think of this ranking of theirs as the most comprehensive,” Machen said. “You’ll have to decide if that’s the most important thing to you, being the parent and the student.”

Both Vassar College and the University of Florida were chosen to speak at the conference because of their dedication to socioeconomic diversity, Machen said. According to Machen, University of Florida’s percentage of Pell Grant recipients is up to double that of Ivy League universities.

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Charles Deacon said that while Georgetown’s percentage of Pell Grant recipients, at 10.8 percent, more closely resembles that of the universities in the Ivy League than Florida’s 30 percent rate, the university’s selectiveness limits its ability to admit a large amount of low-income students who have fewer opportunities to meet the standards of elite institutions.

“I think the greater issue starts with the beginning that there aren’t enough kids coming along with the level of academic talent and background it’s going to take to fill up lots of spaces at these very top institutions,” Deacon said.

According to Deacon, endowment is also a limiting factor.

“For a place like Georgetown to have 50 percent Pell Grant, we would need to have someone give us about $5 billion in financial aid to meet the need of those students at the level of equality,” Deacon said.

Anthony Carnevale, director of the McCourt School of Public Policy’s Center on Education and the Workforce, agreed, pointing to Georgetown’s endowment , which is smaller than those of universities in the Ivy League.

“At some level, the rankings are aspiration, and they’re a little bit unfair,” Carnevale said. “What is stunning about Georgetown … is that the graduation rate for low-income and minority kids at Georgetown is just as high as the overall graduation rate, and it’s well above 90 percent.”

Deacon similarly noted the high graduation rate of low-income students as well as the Georgetown Scholarship Program as alternative indicators of Georgetown’s relative success in socioeconomic diversity.

“Getting in is step one, getting through is the key. And not only getting through, but getting through with pride, with accomplishment and with opportunities that are on the equal playing field with the rest of your students,” Deacon said. “How do you measure that in this New York Times poll?”

However, Machen said the U.S. News rankings are no more comprehensive than The New York Times rankings would be.

“At least they’re honest about it. To say that [the U.S. News Rankings are] a comprehensive ranking is a joke,” he said. “There are other things that are important.”

Nora Gordon, a specialist in education and economics in the McCourt School of Public Policy, believes the new ranking system could highlight the inequalities in existing rankings.

“I think one potential benefit of having a system like this could be to actually make people discount the other rankings, even if it doesn’t make them care a lot about these rankings,” she said.

Though Machen agreed that the rankings were not ideal indicators, he believed they would play an important role in indicating the affordability of colleges for students of limited means.

“I’m not sure it’s a perfect surrogate for diversity,” he said. “But it does show that kids who don’t have the economic means of the middle class kids can come here and not be put into big debt.”

Despite continuing debates on metrics for economic diversity, the rankings’ mission to draw attention to economic factors in higher education has been well-received.

“I imagine the primary benefit of this will be just kind of shining a light on the disparities that exist and basically the lack of representation of low-income students at elite institutions.” Gordon said.

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