Everyone, including President Obama, has March Madness fever. Here at Education Sector, we too have been hard at work completing our own bracket.
In past years, we have used the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rates, or GSRs, to determine our bracket. This year, we’re changing it up. Given that student loan debt has all but taken over the higher education conversation in recent months, from Occupy Wall Street protests to Congressional committee hearings, we decided to use the debt-to-credential ratio as the determining factor for the 68 teams vying for an opportunity at the championship. This ratio was developed by dividing the total amount of money borrowed by the total number of undergraduate degrees awarded. In this case, the lower the ratio, the better job the institution is doing at graduating its students—and with less debt.
Some noteworthy results:
- One big surprise comes out of the West: Both Long Beach State’s ratio of $7,653 and San Diego State University’s $11,967 had very good showings, making it to the Elite 8. Impressive, given the recent news in California that Harvard is now cheaper to attend than CSU. But compared to other public universities across the nation, Long Beach and San Diego State are still relatively affordable. Admittedly, this may change in the future when the recent, steep tuition increases in California begin to appear in our debt-to-credential data.
- The Final Four consists of three nonprofit research universities and one public flagship. UNC with a ratio of $7,900 just can’t compete with Harvard’s $5,909. Harvard may be pricey at more than $39,000 per year, but it has a robust no-loan financial aid program which helps to keep its ratio low. Brigham Young, with a debt-to-credential ratio of $5,260, edges out Duke with its ratio of $8,795. Even though Brigham Young has a lower graduation rate than Duke, they have comparatively low tuition.
- Most surprisingly though, BYU, with its strong graduation rate and low tuition, manages to beat Harvard by a razor-thin margin despite its rather robust financial aid policies and stellar graduation rates.
We encourage you to use our bracket if you dare. Though I think we can agree that a Harvard/BYU final is unlikely to happen.
Watch our video analysis:
Written by Education Sector policy analyst Rachel Fishman and writer/blogger Mandy Zatynski.