Stony Brook University came in at No. 21 on a list that rates colleges based on their social mobility from CollegeNET, a web technology company, last month. This social mobility index (SMI) ranked nearly 1,000 universities and colleges across the country.
Social mobility is defined as the movement in and out of predefined social classes. For the CollegeNET ranking, this means Stony Brook is better than nearly 1,000 other universities in the U.S. at providing an education to help students move up in social class.
Jill Thacker, the director of communications for CollegeNET, provided some insight into the goals of the company during its time making the SMI.
“The goal of the SMI is to help refocus our higher education system towards providing educational and economic opportunity more broadly for our citizens,” Thacker said in an email. CollegeNET hopes to reverse the trend of higher education costs and worse conditions to students by releasing this alternative ranking of universities, she said.
CollegeNET uses a complex algorithm to rank universities, according to its website, socialmobilityindex.org. The algorithm takes into account tuition cost, economic background of the universities’ students, graduation rate, early career salary on average and endowment for the school.
Four City University of New York schools made the top 20. CUNY Baruch College was ranked No. 1 in social mobility.
“By ranking institutions according to the number of underserved (low income) students they admit and graduate, and by the percentage of endowment that goes toward assistance for these students, the SMI acknowledges schools that are doing the best job at serving the public interest,” Thacker said.
Jim Wolfston, the CEO, president and founder of CollegeNET, went on to explain the root problem in America.
“The US is now the least economic mobility among developed nations. Yet the US opinions polls seem to think the opposite,” Wolfston said in an email. “For the first time in US history, and for the first time in any developed nations history, our retiring generation is more educated than the replacements generation.”
Social mobility in the U.S. is among the lowest of nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, known as OECD, according to the 2012 book “The State of Working America,” published by the Economic Policy Institute.
Wolfston said he believes the way to help the United States get back to a more manageable economy is through education.
“Economics agree that the access to education is the fundamental driver for opportunity and economic mobility,” Wolfston said. “Economists at the IMF have found that the number one correlation for shorter recessions and longer recoveries is the extent to which a country provides economic/social mobility.”
Wolfston went on to explain that this is the first time since World War II that, during a recovery period after a recession, the bottom 90 percent of wage earners actually lost ground compared to the top 1 percent.
“How we as a nation apply our education resources—particularly our higher education resources—to addressing this problem will be key,” he said. “That is why the SMI was created.”