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W&M ranks high in NYT report on affordability

W&M is Virginia’s top-ranked public university in New York Times review of high-performing colleges and universities

William & Mary is among the nation’s leading colleges and universities when it comes to a commitment to access and affordability for low and middle-income students, according to a recent report from the New York Times.

The annual College Access Index (CAI) looked at three factors; the percentage of students who qualify for Pell grants, graduation rates, and the net price for low- and middle-income students. Only 170 schools met the standards to make it to the CAI. W&M ranked 15th among the nation’s public colleges and universities and 56th overall. The CAI ranked William & Mary the No.1 public university in Virginia.

“It is gratifying to be recognized for the commitment William & Mary has made to making the university more affordable for Virginia’s low- and middle-income families,” said Provost Michael R. Halleran. “We’ve seen real progress thanks to the investment in need-based aid for in-state students made possible through the William & Mary Promise.

“We’re also pleased to see a ranking that looks seriously at a school’s net price – how much students and their families actually pay to attend – and graduation rates as key factors.”

This year’s CAI, published on May 25, looked only at colleges with a five-year graduation rate of at least 75 percent. A score was assigned to each school based on the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants multiplied by the graduation rate, and the average net price for students with annual family incomes of $35,000-$75,000. Net price is the actual out-of-pocket cost of college for students and their families after financial aid and scholarships are factored in.

According to the report’s website, “Together, the index measures how many lower-income students graduate from a college and how much they must pay to attend it.”

Overall, public universities from the Commonwealth performed well on the CAI. With a total of four making the list, Virginia was second only to California, which had six.

William & Mary, which was ranked 77th on the CAI in 2015, has made strides in recent years to increase economic diversity among its student body.

In 2013, the Board of Visitors adopted the W&M Promise, a new financial model with a four-year tuition guarantee. Since that time, in-state financial aid available for undergraduates has more than doubled to $25.3 million annually.  

Since the adoption of the Promise, W&M’s average net price for Virginia families making $75,000 or less annually has dropped by more than 20 percent. Additionally, William & Mary is the only public institution in Virginia that has replaced all loans with grants for students whose families make $40,000 or less annually. These students graduate without any burden of student-loan debt.

William & Mary consistently ranks high for its graduation rates. In the most recent data by the National Center for Education Statistics, W&M has the second-highest four-year graduation rate of any public university in the United States at 82 percent, more than double the national average of all schools — public and private.

While noting the progress under the W&M Promise, Halleran emphasized that William & Mary is committed to doing more to improve economic diversity across campus. Currently, the percentage of in-state undergraduates who are Pell recipients is 14.6 percent, while the percentage of out-of-state Pell recipients is just 6 percent. The university has set a 2020 goal to increase by 50 percent the number of admitted in-state undergraduates who come from households earning $60,000 or less. In addition, need-based scholarships are the top priority of For the Bold, William & Mary’s current fundraising campaign.

“This report is validation of the progress we’ve made under the William & Mary Promise, but we know we have much more work to do,” Halleran said. “William & Mary offers the best undergraduate experience in the country, and we want everyone who is admitted here to have the opportunity to attend.”