In The New York Times’ 2015 College Access Index, published last Wednesday, of the “Top Colleges Doing the Most for Low-Income Students,” Kenyon ranked 120th out of the 179 institutions listed.
Each institution’s ranking was based on the percentage of students receiving Pell grants, the number of those students who go on to pursue graduate degrees and the attendance price that these colleges charge low- and middle-income students. The College Access Index, which includes institutions with a five-year graduation rate of 75 percent or more, combines a college’s total percentage of Pell graduates with its net price to produce a final score. The average score is 1.00, and anything above indicates greater effort toward economic diversity. Kenyon received an access score of 0.84.
This is not the first time Kenyon has ranked close to the bottom on the Times’ list. Last year, the College recorded the second-lowest percentage of students awarded Pell grants, need-based grants provided by the U.S. Department of Education to students coming from families making less than $50,000 a year. For the 2015-16 academic year, the percentage of Kenyon students on Pell grants moved to nine percent, a slight increase from last year’s eight percent. It wasn’t enough to boost Kenyon from its spot near the bottom of the list.
“Looking at the net cost, Kenyon, comparatively, does well,” President Sean Decatur said. “For the students that we do make a commitment to admit from families with a great deal of financial need, we do what we can. On the other hand … we’ve got some room to improve the percentage of those students we have on campus.”
Decatur thinks the Times’ leaves out an important factor. “I’d love to figure out a way to also look at its broader definition of socioeconomic diversity,” Decatur said.
Dean of Admissions Diane Anci did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Anderson Scull ’19 said he hasn’t seen much economic diversity among students during his first month here. “Financial aid can’t cover everything,” Scull, who receives financial aid, said.
John Eyre, an admissions counselor at Kenyon, said the College is looking into many programs to promote economic diversity. “We’re instituting a lot of initiatives in our office that are working to continue to benefit low-income students, so we have a variety of programs.” Eyre said he had not seen the Times ranking.
Jennifer Delahunty, associate dean of admissions for the West Coast, also defended Kenyon’s devotion to low-income students, although she said she also had not seen the ranking. “Kenyon is extremely committed to economic diversity,” she said. “The College is very intentional in recruiting students from the lowest socioeconomic levels … and working with community-based programs by providing travel grants for low-income students through our financial aid program, where we meet 100-percent need.”