Ranking colleges: Hispanic-serving institutions and economic mobility

Ranking colleges: Hispanic-serving institutions and economic mobility
UNLV banners line the walkway along the academic mall on January 5, 2017. (R. Marsh Starks / UNLV Photo Services)

By Suzanne Potter
This story was originally published by Public News Service.

Higher-education experts are promoting a new way to rank colleges and universities, proposing an Economic Mobility Index (EMI) measuring 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 put the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) at number 108.

Nicole Siegel, deputy director of education for Third Way, said UNLV provides a strong return on investment for its 25,000 students.

“The reality is selectivity and historical prestige have long been prioritized over student outcomes,” Siegel asserted. “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 nationally are all Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), 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 HSIs, and 66% of Hispanic students are clustered in 18% of schools.

Lanae Erickson, senior vice president of social policy, education and politics for Third Way, said the rankings are partially based on what is called a price-to-earnings premium, the cost of attendance versus the earning power of graduates.

“The schools shown to provide the most economic mobility were all Hispanic Serving Institutions,” Erickson reported. “All of them provided enough of an earnings premium for low-income students to recoup their educational costs in two years or less.”

The school with the highest percentage of Hispanic students in the state is Nevada State College in Henderson, at 41.3%. The schools enrolling the largest numbers of Hispanic students include the College of Southern Nevada, UNLV and Truckee Meadows.