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Interviews with news makers and discussion of topics important to Southwest Michigan. Subscribe to the podcast through Apple itunes and Google. Segments of interview are heard in WestSouthwest Brief during Morning Edition and All Things Considered

WSW: Bridge Ranks Michigan Colleges On Social Mobility


College graduates earn more on average over their lifetimes than people without a degree. But Bridge, the online news service of the Center for Michigan, finds that some schools are better than others at improving social mobility. 

Bridge Senior Writer Ron French wrote the story Low income Students Soar at Some Colleges, Struggle at Others. French says the choice of college for a 17 or 18 year old is likely to impact future earnings, student debt load, and even whether or not they graduate. French says Bridge wanted to see which colleges and universities are the best for students from low-income backgrounds.

35 public universities and private colleges in Michigan were ranked in the Bridge study. French says they looked at five factors: average earnings of former college students 10 years after they enrolled, graduation rates for low-income students, the percentage of low-income students, the average annual cost for those students, and the salary gap between low-income student and those that came from wealthier backgrounds.

Michigan State was the top ranked school in the state, Western Michigan University was tied for eighth with Madonna University, one slot behind Central Michigan University. Bridge found that Western enrolled a higher percentage of low-income students, but those students pay less at Central. French says other organizations have used different methods to rank schools on social mobility. He says Bridge “weighed” all of those factors equally, rather than giving more importance to any of them. 

Interview with Ron French - web version

While some private schools were ranked, Kalamazoo College is not included in the Bridge story. French says the federal data does not include K-College’s eventual earnings for low-income students, compared to those from wealthier backgrounds. However French says K-College has a good graduation rate for low-income students, and its price for poorer students also scores well. But French says without the income inequality data, Bridge didn’t think it was right to compare them to other schools.

French says the rankings may not be perfect, but he says they should prompt families to look into what colleges and universities offer students. French says services like academic mentors and financial education can help a student get through college and be prepared for what’s next.

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.
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