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March Madness: The Sweet 16 East Bracket-College Counselor Style

As I wrote in Part I and Part II, I decided to use the hoopla (yes, there's another basketball reference) around March Madness to learn a little more about the colleges involved in the competition. As a college counselor, I'm not interested in their athletic ability as much as I am in things like graduation rates, retention rates and quality of life issues.

Using College Navigator and Niche for my research, I'll make my comparisons for the East bracket in this post.

East: Notre Dame versus Wisconsin

This is another private-public match up, which makes looking at costs more complicated. To try and even the playing field (oops... that's a football metaphor), I looked at out-of-state costs for Wisconsin. Wisconsin comes in cheaper for average net price in every income bracket except the $48,000-$75,000 range. Wisconsin also has the edge on Pell Grant Recipients. Both schools report strong retention rates (Notre Dame at 98% and Wisconsin at 95%), but for 4-year graduation rates, the Irish have it hands-down with 91% to the Badgers' 55%. So, mixed results here.

With quality of life considerations, Niche focuses on 19 categories. Notre Dame posts A+ grades in Academics, Athletics, Campus Food, Campus Quality, Attractiveness of Students, and Technology, and their only C- (or below) is in Drug Safety. The Badgers score A+ in Athletics, Campus Food, Campus Quality, Student Attractiveness, Local Area, Off-Campus Dining, and Party Scene, and low scores in Parking and Drug Safety. Excluding tie scores, ND wins 6 of the 19 categories, and Wisconsin wins 7. More mixed results.  So, I'll go out on a limb and credit Notre Dame's significantly better 4-year graduation rate, and declare Notre Dame the winner in a close match up.

East: North Carolina versus Indiana

I have to declare bias right up front. I did my doctoral work at Indiana University--Bloomington, so I am predisposed to favor it right off the bat (and there's a baseball metaphor thrown in for good measure). But let's look at the numbers:

Average Net Price: Overall, UNC is a little less expensive, but the results are mixed depending upon the income level you look at. 

Pell Recipients: UNC--22% to IU's 19%.

Retention Rate: UNC--97%, IU--89%. 4-year Graduation rate: UNC--80%, IU 59%. Looks like UNC has a strong lead so far.

Quality of Life: The Tarheels post A+ grades in Academics, Athletics, Campus Quality and Student Attractiveness, and C- or below in Drug Safety and Parking. The Hoosiers get A+ marks in Athletics, Campus Quality, Student Attractiveness, Off-Campus Dining, and Party Scene, and low marks in Drug Safety and Parking. Overall, IU out scores UNC in 7 measures, and UNC outscores IU in only 5 measures. Very slight advantage goes to IU.

Another tight match up, and grudgingly, I'll give the overall win to North Carolina.