GW landed in the bottom fifth of the New York Times’ first-ever ranking of the most economically diverse top colleges.
The newspaper gave GW the No. 84 slot on Monday out of the 99 schools it evaluated for efforts to attract and enroll poor and middle-class students.
Listing only U.S. colleges with a four-year graduation rate of at least 75 percent in 2011-12, the Times ranked schools based on their endowment per student, out-of-pocket costs for low- and middle-income students and the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants.
Researchers for the Times’ website The Upshot combined those factors into a College Access Index for each school. GW earned a -1.4, while the top school, Vassar College, earned a 3.1.
The data used to determine college access shows a stark contrast between GW and the liberal arts college in New York.
While 13 percent of GW freshmen on average received a Pell Grant (meaning their family income is less than $50,000) between 2012 and 2014, about one in four Vassar freshmen received Pell Grants on average during that same period.
Vassar College’s $340,000 endowment per student also dwarfs GW’s per student endowment of $70,000, though Vassar enrolls only about 2,500 students compared to GW’s roughly 10,000 undergraduates.
And while families earning between $30,000 and $48,000 annually paid about $18,300 after financial aid, families in the same income bracket paid a net price of just $6,000 a year on average for a degree from Vassar.
Families in that income bracket have seen their net price to attend GW rise 28 percent over the last five years.
Most of the schools GW considers its peers, including New York, Emory and Duke universities, outranked GW.
Still, GW ranked slightly higher than Boston University (No. 87) and Washington University in St. Louis (No. 92).
The ranking – not the first time GW has received low marks for attracting lower-income students – comes after University President Steven Knapp’s repeated assurances that accessibility is one of his priorities. Knapp launched a task force to tackle the affordability last winter, and has attended White House summits on the issue.
Universities can also expect the first draft this fall of the federal government’s system to rate universities, which will look to incentivize colleges to improve affordability.
– Jeremy Diamond contributed reporting.