Top-rated Massachusetts colleges scored poorly on economic mobility index, measuring assistance to low-income students


US News and World Report just released their annual list of best colleges and universities, but as the most elite schools in Massachusetts top the rankings, many of them are doing comparatively to help low-income students earn more later in life, according to another recently -released college ranking system by left-leaning think tank Third Way.

According to The Economic Mobility Index, highly-ranked schools like Harvard University, Boston University and Tufts University fall to near the bottom of the list when measured on how the proportion of low-income students they enroll along with the economic benefits they receive.

Michael Itzkowitz, a senior fellow at Third Way, a public policy think tank in Washington, DC, developed the Economic Mobility Index as a way to find out what schools are truly serving the purpose of higher education and economic mobility.

“I thought it would be beneficial to look at these schools in a different way and incorporate the schools that are actually accessible, offering opportunity and demonstrating good outcomes as a way to evaluate the effectiveness of colleges across the United States and what happens when you do that a school like Harvard drops to number 817,” Itzkowitz said.

The main reason why elite Massachusetts schools have such low rankings breaks down to how many low/moderate-income students these schools are enrolling. Although schools like Harvard University have strong returns on investments and offer generous financial aid packages, only 11.6% of their student body receives Pell Grants.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology ranked higher on the economic mobility index than their elite peers — nearly 20% of enrolled students are on Pell Grants. MIT currently ranks at #489 in the economic mobility ranking.

The University of Massachusetts Boston which ranks #98 on the EMI is leading the state — and country — in economic mobility for low-income students. At UMass Boston, nearly 40% of students are on Pell Grants.

Elite colleges and universities are more likely to recruit students from wealthy areas than poorer areas. Almost half of the high schools that receive college recruitment from private schools are in neighborhoods where the average income is at least $100,000, according to The New York Times.

“The schools that are considered elite by popular news publications, are not attended by 99 percent of the population,” Itzkowitz said.

At schools like Harvard where the acceptance rate is 5%, the median family income is $168,000. Boston University accepts only 20% of applicants and has a median family income of $141,000. And Tufts University which has an acceptance rate of 16.3% has the highest median family income of the three schools mentioned – $224,800.

“There’s good news is that this data helps highlight schools that are accessible, you know, to lower to higher achieving lower-income students that also showed very strong outcomes,” Itzkowitz said. “So I think that highlights a bunch of different options for students and parents and guidance counselors to consider as they look through their college search.”

Spokespeople from Harvard, Boston University, Tufts, UMass Boston and MIT did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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