USAO tops national lists for affordability, social impact
Three national publications, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, US News and World Report’s America’s Best Colleges and Washington Monthly, rank the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma as among the nation’s leaders in serving high performing students from low to middle income families.
For the third year running, America’s Best Colleges lists USAO among the top 100 colleges and universities in the country that produce graduates with the least debt.
Kiplinger includes USAO in its top 100 “Best Values in Public Colleges” in America, a list based on a formula that stresses academic quality and level of cost.
“It is no coincidence that USAO is recognized nationally for its commitment to providing a rigorous education for every student in our state who is willing to work hard, not just those who can easily afford one,” said USAO President John Feaver.
“Our mission reflects the wisdom of the people of Oklahoma who understand the social and economic value that this kind of personal empowerment brings.”
USAO, which is Oklahoma’s public liberal arts college, is also the only Oklahoma institution, public or private, to make the America’s Best Colleges National Liberal Arts College ranking list.
Dex Marble, vice president for academic affairs, is not surprised to see the university’s academic reputation continue its upward trend.
“Our mission, set out by the State Regents, mandates that we provide the public with a distinctive and accessible liberal arts and sciences education,” said Dr. Dex Marble, vice president of academic affairs.
“We, along with our sister schools in COPLAC, confront a special set of challenges in being excellent stewards of the people’s money while maintaining the rigor of our curriculum,” Marble said.
COPLAC is the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, an exclusive group of schools located in 22 states. USAO has been a member since 2006.
In late August, Washington Monthly gave high marks to the university for its economic accessibility and for fostering upward social mobility among its graduates. USAO was ranked fourth among 255 liberal arts institutions nationally – a rank based on comparing a school’s graduation rates of lower income federal PELL grant recipients to net price.
USAO’s net price was the second lowest on the list, behind Berea College, Ky.
Nancy Moats, director of financial aid, sees the urgency of USAO’s unique role within the Oklahoma state system grow each year.
“In 2012, 87 percent of our student body received some kind of financial aid,” Moats said. “This number, which has risen consistently over the past five years, is a reflection of the kind of student who excels at USAO – often first generation college attendees with modest family means but who are high academic achievers.”
A recent study from the Brooking Institute titled “The Missing ‘One-Offs’” reveals that some 61 percent of the highest performing students in America come from families in the bottom 50 percent of income earned.
Another study from Georgetown University indicates that as few as 14 percent lower income students attend the nation’s top universities, leaving institutions like USAO that combine academic rigor with lower costs an invaluable asset to those most in need of access to opportunities to advance socially and economically.