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Cecil Uses Economic Mobility to Rank Colleges


by Jewel Caruso

Ben Cecil (PhD 2022) co-authored a report, “2023 Economic Mobility Index,” with Chazz Robinson published on Third Way’s website.

The Economic Mobility Index (EMI) was created by Third Way in 2022 to provide an alternative metric to assessing institutions of higher education through their economic impact. In the 2023 report, the authors write, “we have a new approach, shifting focus to institutions that offer strong return on investment for students with the greatest financial need—providing real economic mobility.

The authors note that nearly half of the top 20 institutions in the report belonged to the same state systems of institutions: the California State University System., which had eight institutions. The City University of New work notably had five institutions. The Texas system also ranks highly on the list. In addition, one-third of the institutions in the top 20% are Hispanic-serving institutions.

The report recognizes that part of the success for these states, California, New York and Texas, is their substantial outreach to their large, urban populations which bring in low- to moderate-income students. These institutions have less selective admissions practices and prioritize adaptations of policies and campus cultures to support and retain students and best prepare them to reap the workforce benefits of advanced degrees.

The EMI tool created by Third Way provides another lens to assess student success and track the economic impact of higher education. Cecil and Robinson write, “Institutions faring well on the EMI go above and beyond to ensure that their students can finance their education sustainably and receive demonstrated return on investment from their college credential.”

Read the full report:

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PhD, 2022

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