Blog: The Educated Reporter

Grad rates and Final Four: putting my money on it.

Secretary Duncan said yesterday he would like the NCAA to restrict its basketball tournament to schools that can actually graduate their players.How about schools that can graduate all students? In that spirit, my husband and I entered two brackets into his work pool: one in which the school with a higher graduation rate (university-wide, not just for players) wins in each case, and one in which it loses. I wanted to see which setup would fare better.

It’s looking better already for the higher-graduation-rate bracket, which I will call the “Completers.” So I kept that one for myself. I gave my husband the “Incompleters,” which might be mean of me, since he is a computer programmer whose colleagues now must put their faith in the analytical abilities of someone who predicts a Sweet Sixteen matchup between Sam Houston State (14 seed, 44 percent graduation rate) and Robert Morris (15 seed, 51 percent) and gives the whole tournament to UTEP (12 seed and 29 percent: how can that even be true?).

A note on methods: I used IPEDS’ most recent graduation rate, which measures what share of the entering freshmen completed within 150 percent of the normal time. (Thanks to Karen at the IPEDS Data Center for helping me figure out a glitch in my table; you too should call them sometime.) In the several cases where schools were tied, I defaulted to federal loan default rate, and in the single case where they tied on that too, I picked Marquette over Washington for my bracket, because I grew up in Milwaukee.

So what do the Completers look like? It’s odd—Kansas is upset immediately; Cornell makes it to the Final Four; Lehigh makes it to the Elite Eight—but not totally ridiculous. The Final Four also includes Georgetown, Vanderbilt and Notre Dame, and Notre Dame, a six seed, wins, which is the kind of thing that has not happened before but you sort of feel like it should have.

The Incompleters bracket is insane. UTEP wins. The Final Four includes no better than an eight-seed: UNLV, as well as Sam Houston and East Tennessee. Arkansas Pine Bluff beats Duke, naturally, and Vermont beats Syracuse. Sorry, John. I’ll pay you back the ten dollars, and maybe if you show this blog post around your office they won’t think you’re a moron.

I like that the schools that graduate more of their students make for more realistic basketball champions. But sadly I don’t think I am in it to win it; my bracket would probably do just as well if I let Milo pick out of a hat. I’ll keep you posted.



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