Last week the New York Times’ data-driven blog, The Upshot, published an index of “The Most Economically Diverse Top Colleges” in which Bowdoin performed only slightly above average. The index was based on two statistics for each school—the percentage of students who receive federal Pell grants and the net price paid by students whose households earn between $30,000 and $48,000 per year.

According to the index, 13 percent of Bowdoin students recieved Pell grants betweeen 2012-2014. Since students who come from households that make less than $60,000 a year usually qualify for the Federal Pell Grant Program, examining the percentage of students who are Pell recipients helps measure the number of low- and lower-middle class students that colleges enroll. Despite having the 17th highest endowment-to-student ratio of schools in the index, Bowdoin is tied for the 66th highest percentage of students who are Pell grant recipients. The Upshot index, however, ignored the distinction between colleges like Bowdoin, which meet 100 percent of demonstrated need without loans for all students, and schools that include loans in their financial aid packages. David Leonhardt, a creator of the index, acknowledged that giving so much weight to Pell grants minimizes the impact of middle incomes on economic diversity. Bowdoin is more attractive to middle class students than most other schools in the country, since it provides financial aid to a wider spectrum of students.

Since 2009 Bowdoin has not included any loans in the financial aid packages it awards to the approximately 48 percent of students who receive aid. This means that while the College may not enroll as many Pell grant recipients as say, Susquehanna University, it makes a Bowdoin education affordable for students from households that earn too much money to qualify for Pell grants, and too little to pay full tuition. Susquehanna scores in the top-10 of the index despite billing low-income students (as defined by The Upshot) $9,100 more per year than Bowdoin does. The index shows that dozens of schools enrolls more students who qualify for Pell grants than Bowdoin. However, it obscures Bowdoin’s commitment to making college affordable for students at all income levels.

The Upshot points out that applicants from the lowest-income households are not making their way into Bowdoin’s student body. This is largely a problem of outreach. Talented students from low-income communities often do not realize that elite schools can be affordable, or that places like Bowdoin exist at all.

The College made a brave decision to do away with loans in the depths of a recession and has continued to prioritize aid in difficult economic circumstances. The Presidential Search Committee recently reiterated that Bowdoin “believes firmly that it must offer opportunity to talented students across the entire economic spectrum, including first-generation college students.” Many talented students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, never receive that opportunity—and often it is simply because they do not know to apply. We commend the College for making Bowdoin tuition more affordable for students across the economic spectrum, but ask that it expands its efforts to recruit applicants from that spectrum’s lowest end.