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    Student government to host spring elections this week

  • Tulane University removed Tonya Hansel as director of the doctor of social work program. Hansel remains a tenured professor.

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    Director of Tulane doctor of social work program removed

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    Book Fest schedule features Stacey Abrams, Jake Tapper

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    ‘A huge step forward’: Plots earn Divine Nine recognition on campus

  • Over the span of five days, monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery worked together in the meticulous creation of a sand mandala on the fifth floor of the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library. On Saturday morning, it was wiped away with several swipes of a paintbrush.

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    Peek into Tibetan Buddhism, from Howard-Tilton Memorial Library

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    Paul Hall opens new doors for Science and Engineering department

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    Apple executive Lisa Jackson speaks on career journey

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    Do NFL fans really hate Taylor Swift or do they hate women?

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    OPINION | Tenure: The last defense of professors’ constitutional rights 

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    What can I do with my first college summer?

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    OPINION | Could NOLA be more than four years of fun?

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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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OPINION | I’m glad Tulane’s ranking dropped, you should be too

Nathan Rich

It’s no secret: Tulane University lacks economic diversity. The most recent economic diversity evaluations put Tulane at the fourth-least economically diverse university in the nation, with only 9% of the student body coming from low-income backgrounds that qualify them for Federal Pell Grants. Tulane has many more low-income students who receive financial aid from the school instead of relying on federal loans. But the statistic still seems abysmal when one recognizes that 34% of college students receive Pell Grants each year. 

Campus diversity aside, the low-income students that do come to Tulane do not always find success here. Approximately 85% of Pell Grant recipients who enter Newcomb Tulane College graduate, according to Tulane. 

There have always been barriers for low-income people to receive college educations, but Tulane lags behind schools that are comparable in acceptance rate, cost and status. Tufts University boasts an eight-year graduation rate of 93% for Pell Grant recipients. Emory University is similar, with a 91% rate over eight years for low-income students. 

The Department of Education reports that at Tulane, only 53% of Pell Grant recipients graduate within eight years. That rate is lower at Tulane because it also takes into account students in the School of Professional Advancement who are often working class adults or part-time students and take more time or even semesters off before they complete their degrees. 

So when the U.S. News and World Report modified its college ranking system to prioritize social mobility, it’s no surprise that Tulane took a hit. The new system puts weight into the graduation rates of Pell Grant recipients and Pell Grant student outcomes: the students that historically need a college education most to get ahead. The algorithm now considers the same metrics for first-generation students, another historically disadvantaged group.

So why is there so much discourse over Tulane’s ranking drop? And why is Tulane President Mike Fitts “shocked” by this outcome?

The schools that currently occupy the top 50, in Tulane’s former place, have better student outcomes and are better institutions of social mobility. Public universities such as Ohio State and Purdue — tied for No. 43 in the latest rankings — have higher overall and Pell Grant graduation rates than Tulane. They both have lower disparities between their two numbers. 

In a university statement released on Sept. 18, Fitts said that this year’s rankings “heavily favor … universities for their ability to enroll classes with a high number of first-generation and economically disadvantaged students.” He went on to say that “these new rankings, while potentially valuable for some purposes, are less relevant for most students … about where they will find the most engaging and rewarding academic experience.” 

While Fitts attempted to delegitimize the rankings by positioning them as “less relevant” to the average student, his release of a statement at all speaks to the continued importance of the rankings to the Tulane administration. His acknowledgement positions Tulane as unconcerned with those metrics and those outcomes. If educational outcomes for lower-income and first-generation students are ‘less relevant’ to the average student, then Tulane has had no reason to bolster those outcomes. That is, until now.

Schools across the country adjust their policies to cater to the rankings every year. Colleges have even gone as far as falsifying their data in order to game the system. Schools boast high rankings on their admissions pages. Whether they are opposed to such metrics or not, university staff clearly care about the outcomes of each review. By making social mobility a marker of prestige, U.S. News is changing the game for the advantage of the disadvantaged.

U.S. News has, by altering their evaluation criteria, given me hope. There is now more incentive for my school to make sure that students like me graduate. There’s an incentive to prevent me from transferring or dropping out and to give low-income students the support systems that they have always deserved. There is an incentive to close the 15-point success gap between me and the rest of my peers. 

To hear the president of my university argue that whether or not I graduate is irrelevant to how “good” our university is, is painful. For students like me, education is an opportunity for a better life. A degree is our ticket to the middle class. And if Tulane was not interested in ensuring opportunity for all before, I hope that it now is.

Correction: A previous version of this article relied on eight-year graduation rates from the Department of Education that skew lower because they consider all Tulane students, including those in the School of Professional Advancement. Using the Department of Education data is a misleading measure because many low-income students at Tulane are part-time or working class SOPA students, who take longer than eight years to finish their degrees. Changes reflect that 85% of Pell Grant recipients who enter Newcomb Tulane College graduate. Changes also reflect that although 9% of Tulane students receive Pell Grants, Tulane offers financial aid to many other low-income students who fall just above the margin for federal loans.

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