When it comes to fostering upward mobility, public colleges may have a leg up on Ivy League institutions – and Miami Dade College is leading the way.
While elite colleges do well in catapulting students from low and middle-income families to the top 1 percent of earners, a study released this year by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that the colleges with the highest upward mobility rates were typically mid-tier public colleges and universities.
MDC fits the mold of public colleges that help launch students into higher economic classes. Approximately 36 percent of MDC students included in the study moved up two or more income quintiles, putting MDC among the top four-year public colleges in the nation that facilitate income mobility. Moreover, 5 percent of MDC graduates rose from the bottom to the top income quintile (the top 20 percent).
“The College is an economic engine for the Miami community,” said MDC Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Julie Alexander. “Our graduates get well-paying, local jobs. We are the hub that transforms lives while invigo- rating the economy.”
MDC has the highest upward mobility rate among Florida public colleges and universities, and ranks fourth nationally among nonselective four-year public colleges.
Public Colleges Ignite Upward Mobility
The NBER study determined a college’s up- ward mobility rate by looking at the fraction of its students who came from the bottom fifth of income distribution but shot up to the top fifth by their early 30s. Low-income students who graduate
from Ivy league schools eventually earn as much in their lifetimes as their wealthy peers. However, because only a small number of poor students are actually able to attend those institutions, their upward mobility rates are not as high as mid-tier public colleges, which have substantially more low-income stu- dents as well as good earnings outcomes.
According to polling from the Pew Charitable Trust, 40 percent of Americans believe it is common for a person in the U.S. to be born poor, work hard and then become rich – the hallmark of the American Dream. In contrast, Pew’s 2013 report Moving on Up: Why Do Some Americans Leave the Bottom of the Economic Ladder, But Not Others? found that 70 per- cent of Americans born in the bottom two economic quintiles ultimately stay there.
“Most Americans born at the bottom of the in- come ladder never reach the middle rung,” the Pew report concluded.
MDC is Stepping Stone to Success
Institutions such as Miami Dade College are important because they offer a quality, afford- able education to individuals from every eco- nomic class. According to Pew, college graduates are 5.5 times more likely to move up from the bottom income quintile than non-college gradu- ates, making a college education a key driver of upward economic mobility.
Sixty-five percent of MDC students are consid- ered low-income and 43 percent are below the poverty line. Seventy percent of full-time, first- time students receive a federal Pell Grant to help fund their education.
MDC distinguishes itself not only by enrolling large numbers of low-income students, but by retaining them and pushing them to finish their degrees. Approximately 70 percent of first-time college students at MDC who enroll for fall se- mester return the next year, compared with the national two-year public college rate of 49 per- cent. Moreover, 81 percent of Associate in Arts graduates transfer to a four-year Florida college or university within one year of graduating from MDC, while 97 percent of MDC’s Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Applied Science recip- ients are employed within a year of graduation.