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University ranks high on social mobility index

After years of classes and student debt, graduates hope they’ll have a better of chance finding a well-paying job with a degree than without one.  

Fortunately, a new social mobility index created by College Net ranked USF as 48th in the nation for boosting graduates’ chances of climbing the economic ladder. 

The list factored in tuition, graduation rate, future earnings and percentage of low-income students. The index weighted low tuition and a high percentage of low-income students the heaviest when calculating rankings.

The index reported that 30.6 percent of USF students are low-income and averaged tuition at $6,410 a year. It also cited a 51.4 percent graduation rate and a median early career salary of $43,100.

The state of Florida ranked 4th overall for social mobility, with three schools making the top-50 list. Florida State University ranked 29th and the University of Florida ranked 40th. 

One of the factors that gave FSU and UF an advantage over USF is a higher graduation rate.

Paul Dosal, vice provost for student success, said USF must get its graduation rates up if it wants a higher score in the future.

Dosal also said weighing a university’s endowment may have also skewed the results. 

“Of course the University of Florida – 100 years older than us – has a much larger financial endowment,” he said. “Since they weigh that, we were put at a disadvantage and we show up below Florida.”

Donald Bellante, an
economics professor at USF, said a good college education enables people to move up the economic ladder and should motivate potential students to attend universities. 

“The subject of social mobility is an important one,” he said. “The biggest contributor to social mobility for people who come from poorly educated families, of course, is higher education.”

In the U.S., social mobility is the movement from one economic class to another. Belief in high social mobility is the idea that bolsters the rags-to-riches stories behind the American dream.

If class is based on work and merit, then moving between income brackets is a fair game. But if social mobility is rigid, then it’s like playing against a stacked deck. 

Though social mobility has wavered over the last few decades, according to a 2014 Harvard study, income inequality has increased. One of three adults born in the top 1 percent of income brackets makes at least $100,000 a year, whereas one of 25 adults who grew up in the bottom 50 percent are making $100,000 or more.

According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, those without a degree who are born into the poorest fifth of the nation have a 55
percent chance of staying there. With a degree, however, they have an 80 percent chance of moving up. 

“We are going in the right direction,” Dosal said. “I think it shows that we can make a difference in the lives of students and their families.”

USF awarded an estimated $62,011,795 in scholarships to students in need for 2014.

“This is all about helping students achieve the American dream,” Dosal said.