By Maria Benevento, The Kansas City Beacon, March 2, 2022
Do a quick Google search of “college value” and you’ll immediately find several lists and rankings claiming to tell you which colleges are best worth your investment. But why do the lists differ and what does that mean to you? There’s no set formula for figuring that out. So The Kansas City Beacon combed through a few college value rankings and talked with local universities to give you a starting point.
“Pay attention to the students a college serves when considering value”
Park University and Avila University — both in the Kansas City area — aren’t typically featured on many national lists of top value schools.
But they stand out in the Postsecondary Value Commission’s Equitable Value Explorer. The tool was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is based on publicly available federal databases that can be a few years out of date, but it provides a way to compare schools at a recent point in time.
The Explorer shows how much graduates of specific colleges and universities earn and compares that to typical earnings for high school or college graduates.
But it also graphs those numbers in relation to the percentage of students in specific groups, such as by race and ethnicity or those who receive Federal Pell Grants. Pell Grants go to students with “exceptional” financial need.
Avila bucks the trend when graphing schools by the percentage of students who receive Pell grants and a formula estimating how much their graduates exceed high school graduates’ salaries after accounting for college costs.
More than 35% of the students at Avila receive Pell grants, while their graduates make median salaries that are similar to graduates of KC-area schools that serve closer to 25% Pell students — William Jewell College and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Avila is also among the half-dozen four-year colleges in Kansas or Missouri serving the highest percentage of Black students.
That’s important because a college’s mission — such as providing access to historically underrepresented groups — can influence its outcomes.
Some students might face disparities in K-12 education, generational wealth, health care, and discrimination that can affect their education and outcomes after graduation, according to a December webinar about the Explorer tool sponsored by the Gates Foundation.
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This story was originally published by The Kansas City Beacon, an online news outlet focused on local, in-depth journalism in the public interest.