Every year, the best basketball teams in the NCAA compete for fame, fortune, and bragging rights. In line with a growing journalistic tradition that compares these schools on other parameters than basketball prowess, the Pope Center offers a new set of brackets: the tournament of efficiency.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has just come out with a new tool, its college completion database, and we’re using two of its measurements to determine which colleges produce graduates effectively at low cost.
The chief measure is (in the first set of brackets below) educational spending per completion or instructional cost per degree: This figure totals a school’s expenses related to instruction, student services, academic support, institutional support, operations and maintenance for each of its academic award in 2010. The measurement includes all certificates and degrees.
The lowest cost wins!
Some expenses—such as research and scholarships—are not included. If all categories of spending per student were represented, a University of North Carolina degree would cost about $250,000 per student—not the $137,000 reported.
A second measure is completions per 100 students. This is a ratio showing the total number of undergraduate-level completions (degrees and certificate programs at least one year long) per 100 full-time equivalent undergraduates, based on total credit hours taken. The figure for each school is the three-year average for 2008, 2009, and 2010. Partly because it includes all undergraduate students, not only first-time, full-time ones, this measures a school’s ability to graduate students better than the graduation rate does.)
In a school with a 100 percent 4-year graduation rate and no transfer students, you’d expect 25 completions per 100 students. A number more than 25 indicates that many students transfer into the school and go on to graduate. A number under 25 indicates either a high drop-out rate or that most students take more than four years to graduate—or both. The bigger number wins.
Of course, efficiency isn’t everything. It tells us nothing about the quality of a degree in the marketplace or actual learning. But it’s one important component to consider as the schools vie with one another.
How does your team do?
Cost Per Completion
Completions per 100 Students