St. Andrews Bagpipe Band in Laurinburg, NC

You may have seen similar accolades for St. Andrews, but this one is different in a meaningful way. Of course, you probably already know that the Washington Monthly ranks St. Andrews in the top 15% of liberal arts bachelor’s colleges nationwide. Yes, PayScale recognizes St. Andrews among the best colleges in North Carolina by salary potential. Similarly, Best Value Schools puts St. Andrews in it’s short list of the best value MBAs in North Carolina and in its short list of best value colleges in North Carolina. All of this notwithstanding, the 2021 Washington Monthly’s list of “Best Bang for the Buck” colleges is different. Their exclusive list ranks colleges offering four-year degrees according to how well they help non-wealthy students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices.

The Pell Grant Challenge

Since its inception in 1972, the federal Pell Grant program has been the nation’s largest boost making college more accessible for non-wealthy families. Unfortunately, baccalaureate candidates receiving Pell Grants perform less well compared to their non-Pell, traditional-student peers in terms of graduation rates and income after graduation. Nationwide, their graduation rates range 10% to 15% lower.  

Washington Monthly’s “Best Bang for the Buck” Rankings

The Washington Monthly “Best Bang for the Buck” rankings consider graduation rates, graduation rate gaps for Pell recipients, tuition, student loan repayment, and income. Of the 609 Southeastern colleges awarding bachelors’ degrees and/or graduate degrees, this ranking lists those producing better value for non-wealthy students.

Percentage of Pell Grant Recipients at St. Andrews

The 2020 Department of Education raw data suggests that the St. Andrews student population is more affluent in general. When compared to other Southeastern colleges offering primarily four-year degrees in diverse fields, St. Andrews students prove 10% less likely to use federal loans and 24% less likely to receive Pell Grants.

St. Andrews Serves Pell Grant Recipients Better

As you may already know, St. Andrews provides a bigger earnings boost than other Southeastern colleges in its class. St. Andrews also has a better four-year completion rate compared to other Southeastern colleges in its class, normal 5-year rates of loans in repayment, and 7-year repayment rates that are 23% better than average. St. Andrews students also accumulate less debt. As the Washington Monthly notes, these successes are not limited to wealthy students. Most notably, at St. Andrews, the completion rate for Pell Grant recipients is only one percentage point less than the overall average. The St. Andrews experience almost eliminates the traditional graduation-rate gap experienced by Pell Grant recipients. By the Pell/non-Pell completion-rate-gap measure, St. Andrews ranks in the top 10% of colleges on the Washington Monthly list.


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