The 2017 College Scorecard comparing colleges with similar demographics has been released. It gives students and faculty a chance to see where colleges, such as Pacific University, rank among the other schools in its region. The College Scorecard looks at things like average SAT scores, retention rates, average net price, student debt, loans and earnings after 10 years.
Pacific ranked in middle of pack in a couple of categories including average net price, which came in at $29,422 a year, and students paying down their debt, which is at 78 percent. Pacific ranked in the middle of schools such as Willamette University, Lewis and Clark College, Linfield College and others. Pacific was ranked at the top of list of students receiving federal loans. Although that means many students are receiving a chance at a college education, it also results in a high median graduating debt, which Pacific also ranked near the top.
Sarah Phillips, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, explains these rankings are due to the number of low income students Pacific admits each year.
“Pacific has far more low income students than most of the schools around us and that has real consequences,” Phillips said. “Unfortunately, we live in a society where your income goes a long way in explaining what your SAT and ACT scores are and what your GPA is. I wish that weren’t the case but that’s the country we live in.”
Pacific ranked near the bottom in retention rate at 77 percent, as well as the 6-year completion rate at 65 percent. Phillips believes there is a direct correlation between these statistics and Pacific’s number of low income students.
“If you look at Pacific and the number of low income students we have, you can start to understand why the SAT scores are lower and how it effects retention and the 6 year completion rate,” Phillips said. “Low income students don’t have a safety net or a buffer. If you come from a high income household and your dad gets sick and needs to leave work fora month, your family is not going to call you and say that you need to leave school. At our school, that is what happens. A student has to leave and go work because now they have to make the money. Life events play out in a much bigger way if you’re a low income student.”
Another area Pacific finished towards the bottom of the list was Median Earnings after 10 years. Pacific is at an average salary of $42,700 after 10 years, however this is a statistic Phillips feels doesn’t tell the real story of a student’s success.
“This sort of thing always makes me angry because it doesn’t account for where a student starts,” Phillips said. “If you come from a family that is making $10,000 a year and 10 years later you are making $40,000 or $50,000, then that’s pretty fantastic. But if you are coming from a family that’s making $300,000 a year and after 10 years you are making $100,000 (Like at other schools) then suddenly that $50,000 doesn’t look as good.”
In a New York Times article comparing 578 selective private colleges, Pacific had only 1.4 percent of students whose family were in the top one percent of median income. Pacific also had 32.9 percent of students whose families were in the bottom 60 percent of median income. Because of this, a low income student at Pacific a 31 percent chance of becoming a rich adult according to the study. This proves Phillips point in that Pacific ranks among the highest of low income student admittance.
Despite all the statistics, Phillips is happy that Pacific is able to give those low income students a chance to get a college education and help move them into the middle class.
“I like that Pacific sees, as part of its mission, that bringing those students to college who otherwise wouldn’t be able to and serving those first generation students is a good thing,” Phillips said. “It might not take those students from a very low to a super high but it takes them and moves them into the middle class and I believe that’s what you want a college to do.”