There’s a relatively new ranking list that families may want to consult during this college search season, already underway. The Social Mobility Index, published by CollegeNet, ranks colleges according to their accessibility and affordability, especially for low-income students, as well as their graduation rates, early career salaries of graduates and endowments.
As a result, the highest rated colleges tend to be public institutions, unlike the more conventional college rankings where Ivy League and other prestigious private schools top the list. Princeton University, for example, is ranked the No. 1 national university on the U.S. News World Report college list but No. 769 on the Social Mobility Index.
The ranking, published for the second year, is described at its website as a “way to stimulate change in higher education … to recast the competition for prestige around factors that improve access, affordability, and graduation, and that advance economic mobility for students.”
According to the College Board, the annual tuition at a four-year private college currently averages just over $31,000 for a four-year private institution compared to around $9,000 at a four-year public institution for in-state residents. Total costs, which include room and board, are at least $10,000 more for both.
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The Social Mobility Index assigns tuition and the economic background of students double the rating of the graduation rate and early career salaries and four times the rating of endowments. Still the graduation rate weighting in the Social Mobility Index has twice the weighting it has in the U.S. News & World Report rating system.
Following are the top 10 schools, as ranked by the Social Mobility Index. All are state or city-funded institutions.
10. University of California – Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, California
% of low-income: 33.6%
Graduation rate: 80.6%
Median early career salary (0-5 years after graduation): $49,400
Originally a small teachers college, UC Santa Barbara now has 23,000 students – 20,000 of them undergraduates — and six Nobel Laureate professors. It offers 200 majors, degrees and credentials through five schools and a graduate division on a campus that is among the most beautiful, sitting at the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
The campus is home to 11 national centers and institutes, eight of which are sponsored by the National Science Foundation, and it also includes the interdisciplinary Carsey-Wolf Center, where students and scholars study everything from silent films to the latest in digital media and satellite communications, within the context of a liberal arts and sciences curriculum.
9. North Carolina A & T
Greensboro, North Carolina
% of low-income: 42.6%
Graduation rate: 42.8%
Median early career salary: $50,100
North Carolina A&T is an agricultural and technical land-grant university founded in 1890 which has the largest agricultural school among the nation’s more than 100 historically black colleges.
Its curriculum includes technology, business, engineering and the arts. In 2008, the school was awarded the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Center (ERC) grant for biomedical engineering and nano-bio applications research.
8. University of California – Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, California
% of low-income: 41.8%
Graduation rate: 72.6%
Median early career salary: $48,400
UC Santa Cruz is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. With more than15,000 undergraduate and 1,500 graduate students, the school has a reputation for being among the most liberal UC campuses, all of which have recently adopted a $15 minimum wage for staff.
One example: UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Creative Ecologies, which focuses on the intersection of visual culture, politics, and the environment and recently hosted a series of free public talks exploring the meaning of climate justice for communities ranging from California to the Ecuadorian Amazon.
7. Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
% of low-income: 65.2%
Graduation rate: 45.5%
Median early career salary: $45,400
WSSU was founded in 1892 and in 1925 became the first African-American institution in the nation to grant elementary education teaching degrees. Building on its core strengths in education and the health sciences, the university hasexpanded its undergraduate and graduate programs in more than 40 major.
Part of the University of North Carolina public university system, WSSU has about 6,000 students,graduates about one-third of the nurses in North Carolina and includes the country’s first Bachelor of Science degree program dedicated to Motorsports management.
6. College of Staten Island, CUNY
Staten Island, NY
% of low-income: 49.2%
Graduation rate: 50.7%
Median early career salary: $47,100
Another college in the CUNY system, the College of Staten Island offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in liberal arts, business, education and health sciences. Like seven other CUNY colleges, including Baruch and City College, it also offers the Macaulay Honors College University Scholars program for a select group of students, with hands-on internships and research opportunities, global learning opportunities, and a commitment to provide the skills they’ll need to excel after college.
5. CUNY City College
New York, NY
% of low-income: 56.6%
Graduation rate: 42%
Median early career salary: $51,400
Every borough in New York City has at least one college that’s part of the City University of New York system but City College was the first college in the system and its boasts an array of famous graduates including former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, Jonas Salk, creator of the vaccine against policy and Red Holtzman, the legendary coach of the New York Knicks.
City College has about 16,000 students and programs in architecture, engineering, education and the liberal arts as well 50 master’s programs and research programs. More than 300 undergrads work alongside senior researchers in funded projects.
4. University of California – Irvine
% of low-income: 40.6%
Graduation rate: 85.8%
Median early career salary: $49,900
Nearly 60% of UC Irvine’s 30,000-plus students are the first people in their families to attend college, which is why the school is starting a First Generation First Quarter Challenge that will pair freshmen and transfer students with third- and fourth-year undergraduates and faculty who also had parents that didn’t obtain a college degree.
The school is known for its focus on sciences including new degrees in public health pharmaceutical sciences and nursing but it’s also home to a Humanities Research Institute and the Center for the Study of Democracy, among other research centers.
3. Rowan University
Glassboro, New Jersey
% of low-income: 65.2%
Graduation rate: 65.2%
Median early career salary: $45,400
Founded in 1923, Rowan University has 14,000 students who can choose choose from among 85 bachelor degree programs, 65 graduate programs, two postdoctoral programs and two professional programs. The curriculum includes accredited programs in business, education, engineering and medicine. Its former geography department founder Marvin Creamer is famous for traveling the world in a 36-foot sailboat without a compass, sextant, watch or other instruments, just his knowledge of the earth and sky.
2. Prairie View A & M University
Prairie View, Texas
% of low-income: 64.5%
Graduation rate: 35.5%
Median early career salary: $55,600
Prairie View A&M University is one of about 100 historically black colleges in the U.S. offering undergraduate degrees in 50 academic majors, 37 masters degrees and four doctoral degrees. It was founded in 1876 as a land-grant institute with a mission to excel in teaching, research and service.
A recent Gallup poll found that black graduates of HBCUs are more likely than black graduates of other institutions to thrive in terms of their financial well-being.
1. Baruch College
New York, NY
% of low-income: 39.5%
Graduation rate: 66.8%
Median early career salary: $50,700
The college, named after financier Bernard Baruch, has more than 18,000 students who speak 110 languages and hail from more than 170 countries.
It includes three main schools: the Zicklin School of Business, the largest accredited collegiate school of business in the United States; the School of Public Affairs and the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences. Among regional universities in the North, U.S. News & World Report ranks Baruch the number one for the school whose students have the least amount of debt.
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