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A Blog from New America's Higher Education Initiative

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March Madness: Do Colleges Cut Down the Net on Net Price?

Published:  March 27, 2013

This post originally appeared on the New America Foundation's In the Tank blog.

College basketball fans across the country bemoaned ruined brackets as they watched Harvard unseat the University of New Mexico in the first round of the NCAA March Madness tournament.  Of all the teams in this year’s bracket, Harvard graduates the highest percentage of its student body, and we've been thinking about how the other tournament schools stack up on this front, as well as on how they treat their lower-income students. Some of the traditional basketball powerhouses aren’t too shabby. Duke University, for instance, graduates 94 percent of its student body, and also does well by its low-income students, charging them relatively little to enroll.

Only 15 percent of Harvard’s 2010 enrolled students were from families with sufficiently low incomes to receive federal Pell Grants. And while Harvard charged the lowest-income students (those from families earning less than $30,000 a year) only a nominal amount of $423, few other schools matched up. Bucknell University, already knocked out of the tournament, charged more than $16,000 to those students – at least half the family income.

Meanwhile, a quarter of students enrolled at the University of Arizona – triumphant victors over Harvard – receive Pell Grants. And a third of La Salle University students are Pell Grant recipients. Michigan, which plays Kansas this week, enrolled fewer Pell students (15 percent), but charges a net price of only about $5,000.

Our NCAA brackets would certainly look different if we judged schools by the way they help low-income students afford their tuitions, rather than by athletic prowess. Check out the data on this page – and many more data points from the New America Foundation’s Federal Education Budget Project — to see a new side of your Final Four.

Take a look at how NCAA March Madness schools compare below. Click the table headers to sort ascending or descending on that particular column.



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