- At the New York Times Schools For Tomorrow Conference Wednesday, the media organization unveiled The Upshot's 2015 college and university rankings.
- The rankings measure higher education institutions' efforts to promote economic diversity in their student bodies, based on how many Pell students enroll, their graduation rates, and how much it costs low- and middle-income students to attend.
- The list's top 10 is dominated by University of California campuses, with Irvine, Davis, Santa Barbara, San Diego, and Los Angeles comprising the top five.
To be eligible for the rankings, colleges and universities must also have a five-year graduation rate of at least 75%.
Introducing them, New York Times Upshot Editor David Leonhardt noted that upward mobility has become a hot-button topic in the 2016 presidential campaign, with candidates from Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush to Hillary Clinton making it — or a lack thereof — a primary focus. Despite skepticism, he added, education "is the single best solution that we have to a problematic economy."
The unemployment rate for college graduates in their late 20s and early 30s is currently 2%, vastly lower than for people with no degree. Those with high school diplomas have an 8.4% unemployemnt rate, which grows to 13.8% for those without. Interestingly, the rate is higher for those with advance professional and master’s credentials, at 4.4% and 2.2%, respectively.
“What matters is not going off to college," Leonhardt said. At the end of the day, completion is key, and the schools on the Upshot's list have exceptional success, including for Pell students.
As for the University of California's impressive showing, Leonhardt acknowledged the UC System's "built-in advantage" stemming from the state's large population of Latino and Asian immigrants, as well as the university system's design as a place intended to educate the masses. The latter point is evident in its high acceptance of community college transfers and its effort to recruit more low-income students in the wake of a ban on race-based affirmative action.