UC Berkeley placed fifth in a recently published set of rankings meant to reflect President Barack Obama’s proposed criteria for measuring college affordability and access.
The rankings, released by the organization Affordable Colleges Online, are a response to the college-rating system Obama outlined in August. The plan seeks to link federal funding for institutions of higher education to assessments of individual schools based on average tuition, graduation rates and the number of students receiving federal aid, among other measures.
Affordable Colleges Online’s rankings analyzed tuition and fees, graduation rates, student loan default rates, student services and the average starting salary of graduates to determine the top 100 public colleges that may receive a high rating under Obama’s proposed program. Other UC campuses ranked highly as well: UCLA ranked 10th, UC San Diego came in at 22nd and UC Irvine ranked 24th. All UC undergraduate campuses except UC Merced made the top 100.
Wes Ricketts, vice president and general manager of Affordable Colleges Online, said he was not surprised to see many UC campuses on the list.
“The UC system gets a leg up when you factor in the return on investment,” he said. “Those alumni tend to earn more money in the short term and the long term compared to other colleges.”
UC Berkeley ranked below the University of Virginia, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and the College of William Mary in the rankings but boasted the largest postgraduate starting salary of the five.
The rankings analyzed postgraduation starting salaries from data compiled by Payscale.com, a site that collects data on how much graduates of various universities make. According to the site, UC Berkeley graduates’ typical starting salary is $54,700.
In response to Obama’s proposals for higher education, former UC president Mark Yudof said last month that the average debt of UC students upon graduation is about $7,000 less than the national average, which the White House estimates to be $26,000.
“When going to a really competitive, top-rank university such as Berkeley, yes, affordability is a key factor,” said UC spokesperson Dianne Klein. “But our systemwide goal is not based on the lowest price. Ours is about financial access — we focus on ensuring that students can afford a college education.”
UC Student Regent Cinthia Flores said Obama’s proposals and the subsequent rankings by Affordable Colleges Online indicate a growing need for the UC system to focus on reducing students’ reliance on loans and ensuring their workplace success.
“I wouldn’t say that I disagree with our ranking, but the introduction of this plan is going to force the UC to look at those issues, and I am very happy about that,” she said.