The University of Kansas ranked fourth to last for its aid to economically disadvantaged students in the 2020 edition of the U.S. News & World Report.
The report, released on Sept. 9, surveyed 381 colleges across the U.S. The University ranked at No. 377 in the social mobility category, which evaluates the success of students who receive the federal Pell Grant. The Pell Grant is typically reserved for students with an annual household income below $50,000.
Also in the report, the University ranked No. 59 for the public colleges category, breaking into the top 60. It moved up two spots from 2019.
The full report analyzes the schools based on graduation rates, retention, class size, how much the school spends per student on instruction and more.
“These rankings are one of the many factors we consider when assessing our performance in this area and across our university’s priorities,” said Andy Hyland, a spokesperson for the University, in an email to the Kansan.
The University will announce a strategic plan later in the fall semester to explain its goals and priorities of improvement moving forward, Hyland said.
The total number of students that received federal Pell Grants at public schools in Kansas is about 20,990, according to data from the Kansas Board of Regents. In 2018, roughly 32.7% of students at a Kansas state university receive the Pell Grant, which is close to the national rate of about 31.7%.
Most average household incomes below or near $50,000 are people of color, according to data from the latest U.S. census.
Student Body President Tiara Floyd, a Pell Grant recipient, pointed to how signs affiliated with white nationalists on campus have made underrepresented students feel like they don't belong at the University.
“We definitely, as a University, could do better with recruiting with those of lower socio-economic status,” Floyd said. “I think that will help KU in terms of having students, but also in order to create this campus that’s not only becoming for the elite and for those who can afford it; rather, a public university for everyone.”
She said the University could improve its ranking by recruiting from areas with lower income students, such as Wyandotte County.
About 69% of students at the University without a Pell Grant graduate within six years, according to the data, but about 50% of students with a Pell Grant graduate within six years.
Out of 381 schools, the University ranked No. 377 in a three-way tie. Auburn University and Washington University in St. Louis ranked below.
“We recognize the importance of these rankings, and we always would prefer to go up,” said Chancellor Douglas Girod in a news release. “However, we remain focused on a broader set of metrics to measure our success, and we will be refining those further through a new strategic planning process that will be launching soon.”
Freshmen are more likely to graduate from the University than they were in 2002, according to data from the Office of Institutional Research and Planning. That improved the University’s public university ranking from the previous academic year.
“The work done by our KU faculty and staff is ensuring more of our students remain on track to advance in their degree program and ultimately graduate,” Interim Provost Carl Lejuez said in the release. “When we can improve in those areas we know are important, success in rankings will typically follow.”