ECU named 'Best Bang for the Buck' in the Southeast

East Carolina University has been named the No. 1 “Best Bang for the Buck” among colleges and universities in the Southeast in a new report that ranks universities on outcomes and the degree of opportunity afforded students.

A Washington Monthly book entitled “The Other College Guide: A Road Map to the Right School for You” gives ECU the top ranking in the Southeast region. It also ranks ECU 41st among all colleges and universities in the national category, and 20th among universities that offer all levels of degrees. In addition, ECU ranked 14th nationally in a 2014 social mobility category, designed to measure the extent that a university’s graduates earn more and obtain a better quality of life.

“Student success is the first commitment of our mission, so we are always pleased when rating systems measure the difference we make for our students and the return on their investment,” Chancellor Steve Ballard said.

The book is an outgrowth of college rankings that have been published annually by Washington Monthly since 2005. Those rankings take into consideration a school’s dedication to the public good in three broad categories: social mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), research (producing cutting-edge scholarship) and service (encouraging students to give something back to their community).

The guide’s rankings are different than others, its authors say, because it focuses on outcomes such as graduation rates, student loan default rates and the ability of graduates to land a good-paying job.

Top leaders at ECU say those measures of effectiveness align well with the university’s mission, which focuses on student success, regional transformation and public service. ECU’s motto is “Servire,” (to serve).

The focus of the Washington Monthly report is similar to other systems that specifically measure the value added to the college experience, Ballard said, such as the Collegiate Learning Assessment and the Educate to Careers report.

“We believe the Washington Monthly ranking gives an accurate picture of how students benefit from an East Carolina education,” Ballard said.

The report included in its ranking criteria such as the percentage of students receiving Pell grants, the cost of tuition after reductions for low family income, the percentage of applicants admitted, and ACT and SAT scores.

To be considered for the “Best Bang” list, schools had to combine better-than-expected graduation rates with an affordable price. Ranked schools had to have a student body with at least 20 percent receiving Pell Grants; have a graduation rate of at least 50 percent; and have a loan default rate among graduates of 10 percent or less.

Of all 1,540 colleges and universities in the U.S., the book considered only 386 worthy of inclusion in its “Best Bang” list.

UNC system campuses account for 10 of the top 20 “Best Bang for the Buck” schools in the Southeast. N.C. State University was ranked 2nd, UNC Pembroke was 7th, UNC Greensboro was 8th, Appalachian State was 9th, UNC Charlotte was 10th, Elizabeth City State was 17th, Fayetteville State was 18th and N.C. Central was 19th.

Written by Jane Sweetland, a former dean at California State University-Channel Islands, and Paul Glastris, the editor of Washington Monthly magazine, the guide is aimed at affordability and outcomes in higher education. It was published by a nonprofit, The New Press, with support from the Kresge Foundation.