Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER

The University of New Orleans is a national leader in providing equal access to higher education for students from all income levels, according to a new report by the Brookings Institution.

UNO ranked third in the nation among all selective, four-year, public research universities for educating the highest share of students from the lowest income households, according to the report.

At UNO, 16.6 percent of students come from families with income levels in the lowest 20 percent of the population. That’s more than double the national average, according to the research Brookings did on 342 public universities.

UNO trails only the University of Texas at El Paso and New Mexico State University in the proportion of its students who come from the most economically disadvantaged homes.

The analysis excluded data from historically black colleges and universities.

"Since its founding, the University of New Orleans has been committed to both access and success," President John Nicklow said.

Brookings, a nonprofit public policy organization in Washington, D.C., argues in the report that public higher education is taxpayer supported on the premise that it provides public benefits and "high private returns on postsecondary investments."