Four More March Madness Matchups to Watch

By Emily Labandera and Janette Martinez

Earlier this week, we brought you five matchups to watch in this year’s March Madness tournament. Today, we bring you three more real March Madness head-to-head matchups (and one hypothetical) based on institutional costs and student outcomes. Check out our matchups based on enrollment, cost, aid, debt, and graduation rates (150% time) below.


  1. #2 University of Cincinnati vs. #15 Georgia State University 

Cincinnati and Georgia State, two public institutions, might have similar undergraduate population sizes and similar admission standards, but that’s where the similarities end. Cincinnati has an endowment ten times larger than Georgia State, offers more institutional aid, and has higher graduation rates. But Georgia State gets the nod as they enroll significantly more Pell students, more underrepresented minority (URM) students, and has small, hardly any gaps, in graduation rates between its overall population and its Pell and URM students. Georgia State has a lower net price, and its graduates have higher starting salaries. Over half of Georgia State students receive Pell and over half are URM students. Georgia State’s commitment to diversity makes it an engine of socioeconomic mobility, making it the clear winner.  Advantage: Georgia State


  1. #5 West Virginia University vs. #12 Murray State University

Both universities are public institutions, but West Virginia University has a much larger student body. Total price at both institutions is similar, but Murray State’s more generous state aid program leaves students paying a slightly lower net price – which is what matters most on the affordability front. Although Murray State enrolls a higher Pell population, West Virginia is our pick due to its much higher overall and Pell graduation rates and higher salaries for students after graduation. Advantage: West Virginia



  1. #3 Texas Tech vs. #7 University of Arkansas

Although Arkansas would have to get through Purdue to meet Texas Tech in the Sweet 16, if this does happen, it’d be a good higher ed matchup. These two public institutions have fairly similar admission standards (median high school GPA and median SAT for the freshman class) and similar prices. However, even though Arkansas has a larger endowment, Texas Tech enrolls more Pell students, more underrepresented minority students (URM), and has smaller gaps in graduation rates between URM and Pell students versus students overall. Advantage: Texas Tech



  1. #3 Michigan vs. #2 UNC-Chapel Hill

A likely Sweet 16 matchup, these two institutions boast high graduation rates for all it students and students of color. However, UNC is doing more with less money. UNC enrolls higher rates of Pell and URM students. UNC has a much smaller endowment, and students pay a lower net price to attend. Michigan students may have a higher salary after attending, but UNC’s stats show colleges can enroll underserved students and maintain high graduation rates, carrying out a mission as an engine of socioeconomic mobility. Advantage: UNC