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Ranking the Best Colleges for Social Mobility

College is meant to be a social elevator. But some universities are doing a better job at this than others. Our Social Mobility Index (SMI) reveals the top performers. 

The Social Mobility Index, which is a modified version of Third Way’s Economic Mobility Index, ranks the best colleges for social mobility, determining which universities are doing the best job at educating low-income students in the US. 

Our methodology involves calculating the highest value colleges for low-income students – using total net cost, payback, and earnings data from College Scorecard to generate an economic score – and adjusting this figure based on the number of low-income students the college actually accepts. The result is an index that rewards colleges accepting many low-income learners – who then go on to earn high salaries thanks to a degree they obtained at an affordable price. 

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#1 in social mobility

Berea College

Berea, Kentucky

Economic mobility 71.39

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 1.82

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 89%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#2 in social mobility
Economic mobility 64.35

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 0.37

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 66%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#3 in social mobility
Economic mobility 61.37

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 0.73

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 65%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#4 in social mobility | #15 in National Universities
Economic mobility 60.21

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 0.56

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 63%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#5 in social mobility
Economic mobility 59.44

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 0.73

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 63%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#6 in social mobility
Economic mobility 55.85

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 1.06

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 61%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#7 in social mobility | #88 in National Universities
Economic mobility 54.90

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 1.33

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 63%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#8 in social mobility
Economic mobility 54.36

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 0.16

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 55%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#9 in social mobility
Economic mobility 54.11

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 0.67

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 57%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#10 in social mobility | #24 in National Universities
Economic mobility 53.58

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 0.78

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 57%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#11 in social mobility | #61 in National Universities
Economic mobility 52.95

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 1.25

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 60%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#12 in social mobility

CUNY Brooklyn College

Brooklyn, New York

Economic mobility 52.90

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 0.27

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 54%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#13 in social mobility

Elizabeth City State University

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Economic mobility 52.89

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 1.17

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 59%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#14 in social mobility

CUNY Lehman College

Bronx, New York

Economic mobility 52.23

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 0.18

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 53%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#15 in social mobility | #1 in National Universities

CUNY City College

New York, New York

Economic mobility 52.11

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 0.22

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 53%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#16 in social mobility
Economic mobility 51.59

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 1.14

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 57%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#17 in social mobility
Economic mobility 51.50

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 1.63

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 62%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#18 in social mobility
Economic mobility 49.49

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 0.41

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 51%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#19 in social mobility

CUNY Baruch College

New York, New York

Economic mobility 47.75

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 0.05

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 48%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

#20 in social mobility | #40 in National Universities
Economic mobility 47.32

Schools are assigned a value from 1-100, where 100 is best for students from households earning up to $30,000. This value is multiplied by the percentage of the school’s student body that received a Pell Grant, to calculate the economic mobility score. A higher score is better. Read the full explanation

Economic score 0.91

Our economic score ranks programs based on a combination of payback and EarningsPlus. Lower scores are better. Check our methodology page for details and data sources.

Pell percentage 51%

The percentage of a school’s student body that has received a Pell Grant.

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