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Home / Lumina Foundation

Report: Hispanic-serving institutions produce highest economic mobility

Higher-education experts are promoting a new way to rank colleges and universities, proposing an Economic Mobility Index to measure whether the school creates a path to the middle class, instead of the traditional rankings.

The nonprofit think tank Third Way released its EMI rankings this spring, and California State University-Los Angeles and California State University-Dominguez Hills took the top two spots in the U.S., with California State Universities in Bakersfield, Stanislaus, Fresno, and San Bernardino in the top 10.

Nicole Siegel, deputy director of education for Third Way, said it is because they provide the best return on investment for the highest number of students.

“The reality is selectivity and historical prestige have long been prioritized over student outcomes,” Siegel contended. “But if the primary purpose of postsecondary education is supposed to be to catalyze an increase in economic mobility for students, we need to elevate the schools that are actually succeeding in this goal.”

The top 10 schools on the EMI are all Hispanic Serving Institutions, where Hispanics make up at least 25% of the student body. Some highly selective schools such as Harvard also provide a big jump in earnings potential, but they serve very few low-income students.

Research from the group Excelencia in Education showed in the U.S., 559 schools qualify as Hispanic Serving Institutions, and 66% of Hispanic students are clustered in 18% of schools.

Alam Hasson, interim vice provost at Fresno State University, said one secret to their success is a personal approach to student retention.

“When we admit a student, we’re making a commitment to do everything that we can to ensure that they can be as successful as they can be,” Hasson stated. “And every student is different.”

The school with the highest percentage of Hispanic students in the state, at 92%, is Imperial Valley College. Schools enrolling the largest numbers of Hispanic students include East Los Angeles College, California State University-Fullerton, California State University-Northridge, and the University of California Riverside.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

By Suzanne Potter, Producer, Public News Service

References:  Economic Mobility Index Third Way, Jan 27, 2022; HSI research Excelencia in Education, 2022; Enrollment data HACU ,2022

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