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Beyond the News

Minority-serving higher ed institutions take lead on upward mobility

University Business, August 2018
TECH EFFECT—CUNY Lehman College, a Hispanic-serving institution, recently opened a virtual reality center on its campus in the Bronx to train students for careers in cutting-edge industries.
TECH EFFECT—CUNY Lehman College, a Hispanic-serving institution, recently opened a virtual reality center on its campus in the Bronx to train students for careers in cutting-edge industries.

Minority-serving colleges and universities deserve more political and financial support as they provide the greatest degree of upward mobility for low-income students, says a new report from the American Council on Education (ACE).

In an analysis of post-graduation incomes, the organization found these schools—which include Hispanic-serving institutions and historically black colleges and universities—move low-income students up from the lowest income brackets at two to three times the rates of non-minority-serving institutions. 

Yet these colleges spend less per student than other schools.

“While they’re doing such an incredible job for the country, they’re also some of the least-resourced institutions we have,” says Lorelle Espinosa, lead author of the report and assistant vice president of the Center for Policy Research and Strategy at ACE.


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“One call to action would be better investment at the federal and state levels, and from other parties, like the business and philanthropic sectors.”

About one-fifth of students enrolled at four-year Hispanic-serving institutions, and nearly a quarter of those enrolled at four-year predominantly black institutions, come from families with the lowest incomes.

Minority-serving institutions drive upward mobility by providing flexible class schedules for students who work and have families to support, and by offering emergency financial assistance, among other initiatives, Espinosa says.

At CUNY Lehman College—which had the highest rate of upward mobility among all Hispanic-serving institutions—services for low-income students range from the basic to the cutting edge. The Bronx institution provides child care for parents and has also increased pass rates by introducing flipped-learning models in more classes.

In addition, CUNY Lehman recently opened a virtual reality center to train students for jobs in the growing field, says Jonathan Gagliardi, the assistant vice president for policy and strategy.

“We’re committed to helping people climb the ladder,” Gagliardi says. “You uplift folks by giving them degrees that help them earn more and insulate against unemployment.”