Foon Rhee

The Numbers Crunch: These March Madness brackets aren’t busted

Hampton University lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Virginia, but it wins a bracket based on equal pay for female graduates.
Hampton University lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Virginia, but it wins a bracket based on equal pay for female graduates. Associated Press

If you’re a college hoops fan, equal pay for women probably doesn’t jump to mind in all the March Madness excitement.

College graduation rates, maybe, since the players are supposed to be student-athletes, as the NCAA makes sure to say in press conferences.

As part of its crusade for pay equity, however, the American Association of University Women is offering its take on the NCAA tournament brackets for the second year.

It uses the colleges in the real tournament, but in this version, the winner is the school with the smaller gap between how much male and female graduates earn 10 years after arriving on campus. Often, it’s the less academically prestigious school that advances to the next round.

In this tournament, the Final Four include Florida Gulf Coast, Hampton University in Virginia, Temple University in Philadelphia and Virginia Commonwealth University. In the real tournament, all but VCU were knocked out in the first round. When all is said and done, Hampton is the champion because its female grads’ median earnings are higher than those of its male graduates.

AAUW also did brackets for the NCAA women’s tournament, and Alabama State wins. Both champions are historically black colleges, which tend to fare well because pay equity among African Americans is better than among other demographic groups.

When female graduates earn less, they have a tougher time repaying student loans and getting their financial footing. According to AAUW, among 2008 college graduates, men paid off about 44 percent of their debt by 2012, still owing nearly $12,800. But women had repaid only a third of their loans and were still $16,100 in the hole.

Not to be outdone, another advocacy group did its own brackets, showing how the Sweet 16 colleges do on the affordability score. In this ranking by Demos, the net cost for students from families with an annual income of $30,000 or less ranges from $8,777 at Duke to $24,792 at Miami among private schools. It goes from $4,304 at Texas A&M to $15,089 at Kansas among public schools.

While these numbers show how much financial aid some private universities can afford to give, Demos says it also shows that many public colleges are far from affordable – and thus need more state and federal money.

It’s some food for thought with the Final Four on tap next weekend. For basketball fans, March Madness can bring moments of jubilation or agony. But off the court, equal pay and college affordability matter more.

By the numbers

The ratio of what female graduates earn compared to male graduates for selected colleges, and when they lose in the equal pay bracket:

  • University of Southern California, 90%, second round
  • UC Berkeley, 82%, Sweet Sixteen
  • Fresno State, 79%, second round
  • Cal State Bakersfield, 79%, second round
  • University of Arizona, 75%, first round
  • University of Colorado, 77%, first round
  • University of Oregon, 79%, first round
  • Oregon State University, 74%, first round
  • University of Utah, 55%, first round

Source: American Association of University Women