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Fresno State receives high marks for affordability

A recent TIME Magazine study has ranked Fresno State No. 26 in the nation based on affordability, graduation rates and Pell Grants, the federal financial aid for low-income families.

TIME gathered data from 2,500 colleges and universities throughout the country and based its research around the Obama administration’s announced plan last year to introduce a new ratings system focused on “the best value.” Factors include the price of tuition, federal aid grants and graduation success.

When broken down into the three criteria, Fresno State ranked No. 18 in affordability, No. 146 in Pell Grants and No. 785 in graduation rate.

“You need to look at individual universities for the merits of what’s going on at that university,” said Fresno State vice president of student affairs Dr. Frank Lamas. “But benchmarks like this are helpful in the sense that we can compare ourselves to other institutions that are like us, and there is some merit in that.”

Other colleges within the California State University system also ranked in the top 30 include CSU Long Beach (14), CSU Los Angeles (24) and CSU Stanislaus (28).

A concurrent study by the U.S. Department of Education also found Fresno State as one of the nation’s most affordable universities.

The study, which focuses on the net price of attendance, is calculated by subtracting the average amount of financial aid from the total cost of attendance. Fresno State’s net price, $5,894, lies well below the national average of $11,582 for public four-year universities.

With over two-thirds of the student population at Fresno State receiving some form of financial aid, Associated Students, Inc. President Moses Menchaca emphasized the importance of aid for local Valley students. He said financial aid was a reason for an increase in the number of first-generation students on campus.

“Since Fresno State’s service area includes a large amount of students that are financial aid eligible and Pell Grant eligible, it’s important that we are providing a high-quality education at an affordable cost,” Menchaca said.

Lamas noted that although Fresno State does have many students with high need, providing both academic advisers and enough student assistance is crucial.

“I would hate to lump Fresno State or any other school with a lot of low income students, that somehow they aren’t going to do well,” Lamas said. “I think a lot of low-income students are academically well able.”

“One of the difficulties for them being a first-generation student like myself is not having a lot of role models. That’s where we have to step it up to be there for them when they encounter difficulties.”

Fresno State’s current six-year graduation rate is 48 percent.

“This has been one of the main focuses of President [Joseph] Castro, as well as administration and other faculty members,” Menchaca said. “It’s going to take bold ideas to increase that number.”

Some of the programs that have already been implemented to aid student academic success on campus include DISCOVERe, the learning center, FresWoW and multiple service learning courses.

Fresno State will disburse a record $72 million in financial aid this academic year for 14,200 students.

“Our students have the ability to access these dollars,” Lamas said. “Being a university student and graduating changes lives. I think anything where we can get funds to help students get more grants, where they are able to really focus totally on school and take part in all the initiatives that we have, would be a great thing.

“If the Obama administration or state governments want to help us in that way, I think that would be money well-served for the future of our country.”