2015 Data Journalism Finalist: ProPublica Staff

Annie Waldman and Sisi Wei | ProPublica

“Debt by Degrees”

The stories include elite institutions with deep pockets that admit too few poor kids; community colleges dealing with chaos and a student population struggling to remain in school at all; and religious schools with a mandate to teach the poor that find it difficult to make ends meet, let alone provide an education to those who can’t afford it.

Comments from the Judges:

“This is an eminently readable and useful series that should have broad appeal and should embarrass some institutions, perhaps prodding them to action. The articles make a crucial point: that non-profit status was conferred as a public good and that these schools owe the people something. The “reporting recipe” for local news outlets included outstanding and easily actionable ideas, such as comparing local schools or university systems by their percentage of institutional aid for the poor.”

“The reporters at ProPublica winnowed and reorganized numbers to sort out important information for students from Anchorage to Atlanta. They created easily searchable databases that deliver facts that could help families and young people make clearer decisions about college. They went through extra work to correlate a separate database about school endowments that strips away pretense of help from some of the nation’s more prestigious schools. Time-consuming work on an important subject (soaring student debt) that does what a good news story ought to do – deliver help.”