August 23, 2017

Brent Kramer, PhD, Senior Economist


Public Colleges Lift Low-Income Students Into the Middle Class

Investing in Public Colleges Essential to Boost Economic Mobility

Earning a four-year college degree is now considered essential for achieving a “middle-class” lifestyle, even as many new graduates have trouble landing good, full-time jobs in a weak labor market. Despite the weak labor market, graduates still have better chances of finding good jobs than do their peers without degrees.

The Fiscal Policy Institute examined the economic mobility of graduates in different types of higher education institutions (public, private, elite, etc.), by utilizing raw data from a recently published study. The study examined which colleges were most effective at helping young people from lower-income families get jobs and careers that would put them on the path to a higher-income future.

Looking solely at New York’s institutions of higher learning, the Fiscal Policy Institute found that graduates from public colleges and private colleges, who came from low-income families, were about equally likely to move into the middle class after graduation. However, public colleges elevate more graduates into a higher income group because they admit substantially more lower-income students than private colleges. Most of the students attending New York’s private colleges tend to come from middle- and upper-income families, despite these colleges’  attempts to diversify.

“New York’s public colleges, both SUNY & CUNY campuses, are critical in preparing the next generation of state residents for better-earning careers. The private colleges help, but they mostly admit students from higher-income families,” stated Brent Kramer, PhD, Senior Economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute.

New York’s public colleges push more lower-income students than private colleges, into better and more lucrative careers. This leads to a stronger state economy and many years of potential state tax revenue.

“It’s astounding that New York continues to inadequately fund the state and city college systems, which are arguably the most reliable long-term investments in the state’s future,” noted Kramer.

Investing in New York’s public colleges will further support the growing number of students enrolling in public institutions and reinforce the infrastructure that allows them to graduate successfully.

Read the full report here