Metric analysis

Often overlooked in rankings, Hispanic colleges are adopting a new metric for success

Which Schools Deserve To Be Ranked At The Top Of The Best Universities In The USA? It depends on what you mean by “best”.

If “best” means the most prestigious and selective admissions, then of course today’s college rankings are doing what they’re supposed to. But if the interest of higher education is to support economic mobility, these lists which make the headlines each year do not show everything.

That’s the argument made by researchers at the Third Way think tank, who have developed a new way to rank the nation’s colleges. They call it the Economic Mobility Index, and it looks at two factors: the proportion of students from low- and moderate-income backgrounds at a university, and the economic boost those students get after enrolling.

It is through this lens that things begin to look different. According to this metric, all of the top schools creating upward mobility for low-income students are Hispanic-serving institutions — those whose Latinos make up at least 25% of full-time undergraduate students — and they are all concentrated in California, Texas and New York. .

“The reality is that selectivity and historic prestige have long been prioritized over student achievement,” Nicole Siegel, Third Way’s deputy director of education, said this week during a panel discussion on the new index and the HSIs. “But if the primary goal of post-secondary education is supposed to be to catalyze increased economic mobility for students, we need to elevate the schools that are actually successful in achieving that goal.

Who creates the return on investment?

Doesn’t the Ivy Leagues produce upward mobility for its low-income students?

Of course they do, says a Third Way report on its economic mobility index, but the number of low-income students admitted to these universities is relatively low. Compared to the number of low-income and first-generation students graduating from Hispanic-serving institutions, the impact of HSIs goes much further.

Looking at return on investment alone, the top ten schools with the best overall premium between price and income for low-income students served about 15,000 Pell recipients, says Lanae Erickson, vice president of Third Way. for education and political politics. Meanwhile, she adds, the top 10 schools based on the Economic Mobility Index enroll nearly 100,000 Pell recipients.

Take Duke University, for example, which ranked first in the think tank’s analysis of school ROI for students. About 14% of its 6,700 undergraduate students were Pell Grant recipients, the data shows.

If the best college in the country is based on the Third Way economic mobility formula, California State University-Los Angeles comes out on top. Its Pell-eligible population makes up 68% of its 24,200 undergraduate students. Using the same index, Duke University drops to 722nd place.

What is the impact ?

In short, higher education leaders argue that Hispanic-serving institutions are doing a disproportionate job of boosting the economic mobility of low-income and first-generation students.

But the data showing that these students gain upward mobility through college is significant, says Fernando Delgado, president of CUNY Lehman College. Some students who attend the Bronx campus, he says, find it hard to choose when it comes to paying for their education, food or transportation.

“So for them, it’s critical to understand that their investment — their time, resources, and talent — in getting to college will lead to social and economic mobility,” Delgado says. Student demand is driving the growth of nursing and science at the college, he adds.

Given the financial barriers faced by students at Hispanic-serving institutions, Magdalena Hinojosa described how staff and faculty work to keep students on the path to graduation at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley , where Hinojosa is the Senior Vice President of Strategic and Student Enrollment. business. This includes an initiative that grants free tuition to undergraduate students with household incomes below $125,000 and a recent effort to fund more on-campus jobs for working students.

“If the goal of higher education is to ensure economic and social mobility, are we looking at the parameters we value in telling the story of institutions like this?” asked Deborah Santiago, CEO of Excelencia in Education, who moderated a panel including Delgado and Hinojosa. “They show that intentionality and have an impact beyond traditional measures and efforts.”