The University of New Orleans is a national leader when it comes to providing equal access to higher education for students from all income levels, according to a new report by the Brookings Institution.
UNO ranked third in the nation among all selective, four-year, public research universities for educating the highest share of students from the lowest income households, according to the report titled “Ladder, labs or laggards? Which public universities contribute the most.”
At UNO, 16.6 percent of students come from families with income levels in the lowest 20 percent. That’s more than double the national average, according to the research Brookings provided based on data from 342 public universities.
UNO trails only the University of Texas at El Paso and New Mexico State University when it comes to the proportion of its student body that comes from the most economically disadvantaged homes.
“Since its founding, the University of New Orleans has been committed to both access and success,” said President John Nicklow. “This report reaffirms our belief that a degree from UNO has the ability to transform lives. Members of our community have long known this to be true, and it’s thrilling to receive this kind of national validation.”
Brookings, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., argues in the report that public higher education is taxpayer supported on the premise provides public benefits and “high private returns on postsecondary investments.”
“In particular, universities act as ladders for social mobility, which makes for a more dynamic and fairer society,” the authors write. “They are also laboratories for research, expanding our knowledge in directions that can improve the welfare of the broader population.”
In addition to highlighting social mobility leaders such as UNO, the Brookings report seeks to bring attention to the number of four-year institutions that they label as “laggards”—universities that draw down large shares of public dollars that go to support students from affluent households.
“We estimate that students from top-quintile families at these laggard public universities receive almost two billion dollars in annual subsidies,” the authors write. “Such expenditures seem almost indefensible. Why should taxpayers pay to send relatively affluent students to public universities that both fail produce research and fail to facilitate social mobility? There is a strong case that this money could be spent more wisely.”
The Brookings analysis excluded data from narrower mission-oriented universities such as historically black colleges and universities.
As the only Carnegie-ranked public research institution in New Orleans, the University of New Orleans strives to deliver rigorous programs and unique opportunities to all students—and to translate those programs to individual growth and professional success.
For six years straight, UNO has made U.S. News & World Report’s least debt list, which highlights the 20 national universities where students graduate with the lowest average debt. And in 2016, UNO alumni were recognized by Payscale.com as having the highest average early career salaries out of all Louisiana university graduates.
The benefits to the New Orleans region are clear. With more than 85,000 degrees awarded since its founding in 1958, research shows that UNO has a substantial economic impact on its region with more than $470 million generated for metropolitan New Orleans in 2014-15 alone.