The NYT has an interesting story this morning about how top colleges do (or do not) use their large endowments to increase economic diversity.* Along with the article, the NYT also offers up the data themselves in a linked spreadsheet.** The selection criteria were a bit problematic for some purposes – they only include universities with graduation rates over 75% – but this is just a blog post, so let’s play around.
In particular, I was interested in the claim made in the article that endowment doesn’t especially predict economic diversity. The article uses a pretty scatterplot to motivate its claim that economic diversity is a choice: “The biggest theme to emerge from our analysis is that otherwise similar colleges often have very different levels of commitment to economic diversity. In this area, endowment is not destiny, and prestige is not destiny.”
Here’s a screenshot of their spreadsheet:
Looks pretty noisy! But what’s interesting to me is that although the NYT captured multiple variables, the plot picked out just one, Pell Grants, to measure economic diversity. But I wondered if the relationship with other variables might be a bit different. Specifically, the NYT also collected data about “net price” for students who come from households with incomes of $30,000 and $48,000/year. Here’s a much uglier scatterplot of endowments vs. net price:
While there are still some schools with smaller endowments that have low prices, all of the schools with a high net price (above $15,000/year) have smaller than average endowments (<$350,000/student).***
So, what do you make of these divergent trends between endowments and Pell Grant rates (basically noise) vs. endowments and net price for middle income students (curvy, but distinguishable, relationship)?
EDIT: Had a bit more time to play around. Here's a graph of net price vs. logged endowment. The relationship is now a pretty strong linear one (the correlation is about -.7).
* H/T Beth Berman for the link.
** I puzzled over how to scrape this for a few minutes before trying to just cut and paste it into Excel, which worked fine.
*** Almost all of these schools have very large endowments, relative to the population of universities. The median endowment in the sample is $200,000/student and the average endowment is $360,000/student. Note that I dropped four universities for which the NYT did not provide endowment data.