US universities promoting social mobility

A new ranking of universities aims to shift the idea of what makes one university better than another.
November 2 2015

What makes one university better than another?

More often than not, the answer from students, academics and other higher education professionals has been some quality test of university teaching or research.

But the Social Mobility Index aims to shift the focus to access and outcomes for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.


Best US universities 2016


US universities are ranked according to their impact on social inequality and the index announced last week that CUNY Bernard M Baruch College, in New York City, promotes the most social mobility.

Baruch College, which did not appear in the inaugural Social Mobility Index the previous year, achieved its high score due to low tuition fees and its relatively high graduation rate and average alumni salaries.

The Social Mobility Index rejects the idea that prestigious university characteristics, such as high university income, low applicant acceptance rate and popular reputation, are marks of successful universities.

Instead, it gives weight to low tuition fees, percentage of economically disadvantaged students, graduation rate and average early career salary for graduates.

It also penalises universities for hoarding endowments, since, as the reasoning goes, a university that sits on a large endowment may be prestigious, but it is not using its resources efficiently to help disadvantaged students.

This year, almost 1,000 universities are included in the ranking. The best 15 universities include five in California, four in New York, two in North Carolina, two in Texas, one in Montana and one in New Jersey.

Five of these 15 universities, in addition to promoting opportunities for disadvantaged students, also count as some of the best universities in the world, as rated by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-16.

California’s universities have managed to balance the trade-off between prestige and social mobility, with four institutions both at the top of the Social Mobility Index and included as one of 800 world-leading universities.

Social Mobility Index Rank

University/College

US state

World University Rank 2015-16

1

CUNY Bernard M Baruch College

New York

 Not ranked

2

Prairie View A & M University

Texas

 Not ranked

3

Rowan University

New Jersey

 Not ranked

4

University of California-Irvine

California

106

5

CUNY City College

New York

 Not ranked

6

College of Staten Island CUNY

New York

 Not ranked

7

Winston-Salem State University

North Carolina

 Not ranked

8

University of California-Santa Cruz

California

144

9

North Carolina A & T State University

North Carolina

 Not ranked

10

University of California-Santa Barbara

California

39

11

California State University-Long Beach

California

601-800

12

California State Polytechnic University-Pomona

California

 Not ranked

13

Texas A & M University-Kingsville

Texas

193

14

CUNY Hunter College

New York

 Not ranked

15

Montana Tech of the University of Montana

Montana

 Not ranked

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