Minority Serving Institutions as Engines of Upward Mobility

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Author(s): The American Council on Education

  • Lorelle L. Espinosa
  • Robert Kelchen
  • Morgan Taylor

Published: June 13, 2018

Report Intro/Brief:
“Minority serving institutions (MSIs) propel students up the economic ladder at two to three times the rates of non-MSIs, according to a report from ACE. The report is a first-of-its-kind analysis of MSIs using newly released federal data that examines upward income mobility rates. Despite receiving less financial resources than their non-MSI counterparts, MSIs are doing more with less, shedding an important light on the value of these institutions as a viable path to greater prosperity for students, families, and their communities.

The report uses data from the Equality of Opportunity Project (EOP) to show the role higher education has played in promoting upward income mobility by analyzing the EOP’s student and parental federal tax returns data from 1996-2014 and postsecondary education data from the U.S. Department of Education.

“As a whole, our nation’s higher education system is making a considerable contribution to improving the lives of Americans on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. The data we present make a strong case for increased investment in institutions, particularly MSIs, that are meeting students where they are, and making good on the value of higher education for individuals, families, and communities,” said ACE President Ted Mitchell.

Among the key findings:

  • One in five students enrolled at four-year Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and nearly one in four students enrolled at four-year Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were from families in the lowest income quintile—more than three times that of non-MSIs.
  • Two-year and four-year MSIs enrolled between 30 and 60 percent of first-generation college students.
  • MSIs spend less per student than non-MSIs, but the mobility rate of MSIs was higher than that of non-MSIs. Four-year HSIs, in particular, had a mobility rate three times that of non-MSIs.
  • When examining characteristics of MSIs and non-MSIs with low expenditures ($25,000 per full-time equivalent student and less), the mobility rate of all four-year MSIs was more than double that of four-year non-MSIs, suggesting that MSIs continue to serve as engines of mobility despite resource constraints.”


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