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The luckiest teenagers pick a college based on prestige. But many others who can’t afford prestige simply want the best return on their education dollar -- something that can be maddeningly hard to figure out.
A company called CollegeNet is trying to change that by ranking more than 900 colleges and universities based on how well they improve economic mobility and provide affordable education to disadvantaged families. Virtually none of the top 50 in this “social mobility index” are name-brand schools such as Harvard, Yale, Virginia, Notre Dame or Stanford. Instead, there are names such as City University of New York, Prairie View A&M, Winston-Salem State and Montana Tech.
Many of the top entrants in the social-mobility index are regional public schools. Average tuition for the top 50 is $9,833, compared with $31,231 at a private university. The typical student earns about $49,000 within a few years of graduating, which is close to the median income for all families.
Here’s a list of the top 10 schools in CollegeNet’s social-mobility index, along with the rankings assigned to the same schools by another prominent college ranker, U.S. News & World Report: