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Saint Mary’s among top-ten economically diverse colleges

| Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Saint Mary’s received the No. 8 ranking on New York Times’ list of Most Economically Diverse Top Colleges in the nation, published Tuesday.

web_most economically diverse collegesSam Coughlin | The Observer
According to the article, the colleges in the ranking have all made significant changes in recruiting policies and have made compromises elsewhere to ensure that a diverse student body is a top priority. Oftentimes, talented poor students who have traditionally excelled in high school, do not go onto top colleges, nor graduate from any college.

Saint Mary’s College President Carol Mooney said it is the College’s goal to meet the financial needs of every student and ensure all students, regardless of socioeconomic background, have the chance to receive a Saint Mary’s education.

“We do not want any student to be unable to attend Saint Mary’s because she lacks the financial means to do so.

“As part of our Catholic mission to reach out to those with the greatest need, the College must find ways to allow these students to pursue a Saint Mary’s education,” Mooney said.

President Mooney said the College is dedicated to educating all qualified students. In the College’s ongoing campaign, “Faith Always, Action Now,” the College has raised more than $23 million for such scholarships.

Compared to the other colleges in the New York Times’ ranking, Saint Mary’s has a noticeably smaller endowment per student, at $80,000. As stated in the article, Vassar’s (no. 1) endowment per student is $340,000, Grinnell’s (no. 2) endowment per student is $880,000 and Harvard’s (no. 6) endowment per student is $1.52 million.

Vice president for enrollment management Mona Bowe said the ranking accords with Saint Mary’s mission to enroll  qualified students who are ready to learn, work hard and make a difference in the world.

“We first look for students with the academic background we feel will result in a successful academic performance at Saint Mary’s,” Bowe said. “But beyond the academics, we look for students who are well rounded: aware of the needs of others, strong in their faith, willing to go the extra mile, athletes, performers and artists.

“A wide variety of backgrounds and interests makes for a rich community where learning happens outside of the classroom as much as it happens in the classroom.”

Director of the office for institutional research Daniel Flowers said the article reflects the College’s ongoing efforts to provide education to students from all economic backgrounds, which began nearly 20 years ago.

“[NY Times] calculated a ‘College Access Index’ that looks at the percentage of students receiving Pell and the net-price for low and middle-income families while taking into account our financial resources as measured by the endowment size,” Flowers said. “They found that out of the universe of top colleges with a four-year graduation rate above 75% (about 100 institutions) we were near the top of the list in terms of this access index.

“We’ve also experienced one of the largest increases in students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds from 2007-08 to 2012-2014, from 14% to 24%,” Flowers said. “Only Vassar and American saw larger increases.”

Bowe said the admissions team does not consider the ability for students to pay a requirement for admission.

“After acceptance, the financial aid team works very hard to make Saint Mary’s a reality for as many students as possible,” Bowe said.

As a member of the enrollment team for almost 20 years, Bowe said she is proud of the mission-driven, ethical approach to recruiting the next generation of Belles.

“It is a team effort, from our colleagues that raise the funds for scholarships, to our professors and student life professionals, who tend to the needs of our students,” Bowe said. “And not only do we make it possible for students with less financial means to choose Saint Mary’s, we make it possible for them to stay and graduate on time.

“We will continue to be good stewards of the resources that our amazing donors have made possible. We hope to continue to provide access to students who find Saint Mary’s to be a great fit for them.”

Flowers said the ranking proves that Saint Mary’s is true to their mission of pioneering education.

“In sum, we’re living our mission as there aren’t many other top-quality institutions out there doing more for low and middle-income students than Saint Mary’s College,” Flowers said.

Senior Amanda Gilbert said she and many of her fellow Belles felt honored to discover the news of the ranking.

“It’s just another great accomplishment for Saint Mary’s in our ongoing mission to be a well-rounded campus full of inspirational and confident women,” Gilbert said. “One of the things we students always say we love about Saint Mary’s is our sense of community.

“This ranking came as no surprise to us, for we are constantly aware of our opportunities here to engage with a diverse student body and community.”

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About Haleigh Ehmsen

A senior at Saint Mary's, Haleigh is majoring in Communication Studies and English Literature & Writing. She serves as the Saint Mary's editor and enjoys coffee, guacamole and good books.

Contact Haleigh