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Fifth Annual Social Mobility Index (SMI) Ranks U.S. States According to How Well Their Universities are Advancing Economic Opportunity for Low-Income Students

April 2, 2019
(Graphic: Business Wire)

PORTLAND, Ore.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Apr 2, 2019--CollegeNET, Inc., a leading provider of web-based on-demand technologies for higher education and the developer of the Social Mobility Index (SMI), has ranked all 50 states according to how well their colleges and universities are advancing economic opportunity for low-income students.

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(Graphic: Business Wire)

Redirecting the Attribution of Prestige

The Social Mobility Index ranks nearly 1,400 four-year U.S. colleges and universities according to how successfully they hold down tuition, enroll students from low-income backgrounds and graduate students into promising careers. Each state’s SMI ranking is derived from the average SMI ranking of all the colleges and universities located within that state. The goal of the SMI -- now in its fifth year -- is to help redirect the attribution of “prestige” in the higher education system toward colleges and universities that are advancing economic mobility -- the most pressing civic issue of our time.

“Most higher education rankings evaluate colleges and universities as if comparing brands for consumer purchase,” says Jim Wolfston, CEO of CollegeNET. “The SMI, on the other hand, helps policymakers, students and their families see which colleges and universities are doing the most to drive U.S. economic mobility and thus restore the American Dream.”

Many Paths Lead to Advancing Economic Opportunity

Various factors impact a state’s standing on the SMI.

California colleges and universities deliver the third highest graduation rate in the country. In addition, among the group of top-20 schools for graduation rate, California schools enroll the fifth highest percentage of economically disadvantaged students in the nation. And, when they graduate from colleges and universities in California, students enjoy some of the highest median early-career salaries -- $51,851, on average. All of these factors -- but especially the high graduation rate -- have helped California retain its #1 SMI ranking between 2015 and 2018.

The state of Washington has improved its SMI ranking more than any other state in the five-year period of 2014-2018. During this time, Washington jumped from #26 to #14 on the SMI, in large measure because the state’s colleges and universities increased their percentage enrollment of economically disadvantaged students. Graduates of colleges and universities in Washington also experienced a significant jump in median early-career salaries between 2014 and 2018 -- from $44,930 to $49,924.

Three other states -- Mississippi, Florida and West Virginia -- have performed well on the SMI using a different approach. The colleges and universities in these states are serving high percentages of economically disadvantaged students while keeping tuitions low. Colleges and universities in Mississippi, for example, serve the highest percentage of students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. And their average tuition is the 9 th lowest among all states -- $11,732 in 2018.

“Depending on the current profile of a given college or university, there are different approaches it can take to advance economic opportunity among low-income students and thereby achieve a higher SMI ranking,” explains Devin Sills, a Senior Software Engineer at CollegeNET who has helped develop and expand the SMI. “Ideally, all schools in all states would have low tuitions to help facilitate high percentages of students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds graduate into good paying careers. This should definitely be the goal across U.S. higher education if we are seeking to drive economic inclusion and social mobility.”

Economic Inclusion Helps Spark Innovative Minds

“College education now constitutes the most important rung on the ladder of economic mobility,” adds Wolfston. “But particularly when it offers a challenging environment populated with diverse personal backgrounds and a wide range of economic experiences, a college does something even more important: it prepares all students to encounter and appreciate the unfamiliar. Given that innovation always depends upon a person’s ability to consider what could be different from their own assumptions and experiences, economic inclusion is thus not only a solution to a social justice issue, it is a key strategy for sparking innovative minds.”

Acknowledging Institutional Excellence

CollegeNET acknowledges schools that are fostering social mobility through innovative programs. CollegeNET presents the annual Social Mobility Innovator Awards to student success leaders from U.S. colleges and universities at the Social Mobility Summit -- an annual forum on economic inclusion and best practices for student success held in Portland, Oregon each summer. CollegeNET recently published an  e-book that offers best practices from  student success professionals who are pioneering innovative programs that support under-served and under-represented students’ academic, personal and financial needs.

View source version on businesswire.com:https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190402005061/en/

CONTACT: Jill Thacker

CollegeNET, Inc.

jill@collegenet.com

KEYWORD: UNITED STATES NORTH AMERICA OREGON

INDUSTRY KEYWORD: EDUCATION UNIVERSITY

SOURCE: CollegeNET, Inc.

Copyright Business Wire 2019.

PUB: 04/02/2019 06:00 AM/DISC: 04/02/2019 06:00 AM

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190402005061/en