UTEP takes a big fall in Washington Monthly rankings

Rene Delgadillo, Staff Reporter

This year UTEP saw a drastic drop in the Washington Monthly’s annual college rankings. Once a perennial top 10 university in the D.C. publication, UTEP is now ranked 93rd.

The precipitous fall came after Washington Monthly’s new approach in their ranking system, as well as new additional measurements.

According to Washington Monthly, the changes in the ranking system are designed to not give any category more weight when considering the overall score of the university. As a result, many universities that were once ranked at the top of the report are now at a lower ranking.

One of the biggest modifications in the ranking system was how social mobility is assessed. They now include variables such as university cost, graduation rates, and student loan repayment. All of which is gathered from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard.

Over the past four years, UTEP ranked first in social mobility, now they rank 73rd.

Twenty percent of the score in social mobility is based on a university’s graduation rates.

UTEP has a 39 percent graduation rate, which is four percent lower than the national rate, and a predicted graduation rate of 35 percent.

Graduation rates by the Washington Monthly and other ranking systems do not take into consideration students who start at community colleges or students who drop out of school for a semester or longer. Even if the student graduates, they are not represented in the school’s graduation rates.

“We graduate more students with degrees than we have ever done before,” said Gary Edens, vice president of student affairs at UTEP. “But 70 percent of our students at UTEP don’t ever get calculated in the graduation rates. Graduation rates as a good way of scoring a school? Well, it’s not if you are not measuring 70 percent of your student population.”

Student loan payment rates are another reason for UTEP’s decline in the annual rankings. According to Washington Monthly, nearly 25 percent of UTEP students that have student loans fail to pay down at least $1 in principal within five years of leaving college or the entering repayment period.

“If your parents send you to Harvard you’re probably not paying with loans, that is not the reality with our students,” Edens said. “Our students take more loans that other schools and they don’t necessarily have the ability to pay it back right away.”

This fall UTEP will open a financial literacy office to help students with their finances. According to Edens, the addition of the financial literacy office is not in response to their low ranking in student loan payments.

“We didn’t do that because of rankings. We didn’t even know about the rankings, Edens said. “Our student’s number one concern is financial issues. We’ve put a lot of effort into figuring out how to provide students with what we call financial literacy.”

Known for advertising their high rankings, UTEP now has a slight marketing problem on their hands. Over the past three years, the university pulled out all the stops to advertise their top-10 ranking.

Despite the fall, UTEP is still among the top four universities on Washington Monthly’s list from the state of Texas. Marketing UTEP as one of the top universities in Texas is something Edens and the university are now considering.

Ranked inside the top 10 or outside the top 50, Edens is proud about the gains UTEP has made.

“Enrollment is up, programs are up, we have another doctoral program, and we went through an extensive accreditation process,” Edens said. “Our president is one of the 100 most influential persons in the world. We are working on all cylinders and we should all be proud.”

UTEP is still among the research universities with the lowest net tuitions in the country, which is something Edens and company are proud off.

“We want to keep it that way,” Edens said.

Rene Delgadillo may be reached at [email protected]