Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Fifth Annual Social Mobility Index (SMI) Highlights Performance and Pitfalls as Attention to Social Mobility Grows Among US Colleges and Universities

The 2018 Social Mobility Index (SMI) -- a measurement of US higher education's commitment to growing opportunity and success for economically disadvantaged students -- has identified several consistently high-ranking institutions, based on how effectively they are helping low-income students attend college and graduate into well-paying jobs.

“Unlike other college rankings that are aimed primarily at helping students select a college,” says Jim Wolfston, CEO of CollegeNET, “the SMI helps policymakers determine which colleges are addressing the national problem of economic mobility. Administrators have a better chance to help strengthen US economic mobility and the promise of the American Dream if they can identify and learn from colleges that are skilled at doing this.”

According to the 2018 SMI, several such leading institutions include:
  • Baruch College, which ranked #1 in the SMI for the fourth consecutive year
  • UC and CSU schools, which dominated the rankings, accounting for more than half of the SMI top 20 for the second consecutive year
  • The CUNY System in New York City, which placed five schools in the SMI top 20

The 2018 data also highlighted pitfalls for universities looking to improve their social mobility. From the 1,350 schools benchmarked in 2018:
  • Seventeen schools now charge higher annual tuition than their graduates’ median five-year salary
  • At least 50 institutions award over half their Pell Grants to richer families
  • The percentage of Pell Grants awarded to richer families has continued to climb

“Higher Education is the most important asset in the Learning Age,” says Wolfston. “If we can distribute this vital asset across the economic spectrum, we can optimize our nation’s human capital development, prepare the next generation for citizenship and ensure social and economic opportunity. Most importantly, by rejecting the current trend toward on-campus economic homogeneity, a higher education institution can offer its students the chance to encounter a more challenging mix of people with diverse ideas, perspectives and backgrounds. Collisions with the unexpected and unfamiliar are what best sharpen and prepare innovative minds. Thus, economic inclusion is not only a solution to a social justice issue, it is an optimizing strategy for training tomorrow’s innovators.”

For more information about the SMI and the 2018 SMI rankings, visit