What is the likelihood that a student from a low-income family will achieve the kind of mobility inherently promised in the American Dream narrative? Two recent studies now provide hard data that support years of anecdotal evidence that City Tech (New York City College of Technology, CUNY) students experience increased mobility and a substantially higher salary potential than the graduates of all but a handful of other colleges.
The results of one study, published in the New York Times on January 18 – by Raj Chetty, John Friedman, Emmanuel Saez, Nicholas Turner and Danny Yagan – show that City Tech ranks fifth out of 369 selective public colleges in overall economic mobility and ninth among the entire sample of more than 2,000 U.S. colleges. The researchers tracked about 30 million students born between 1980 and 1991, linking anonymized tax returns to attendance records from these colleges.
A college’s mobility rate is the result of combining a college’s share of students from lower-income families with its success at propelling them into the upper part of the income distribution. And City Tech’s overall mobility index measure reflects both access and outcomes, representing the likelihood that a City Tech student moved up to two or more income quintiles.
In other words, City Tech served a population that was predominantly from the lower rungs of the economic ladder and its graduates were able to advance at a rate that most other institutions could not approach. This is exactly the kind of leap that Alassane Ngaide made when he graduated from City Tech in 2015.
Arriving in the United States from a small village in the south of Mauritania, West Africa, with only $150 in his pocket, Ngaide chose to use some of that money to purchase basic English learners books so that he could teach himself English. Ngaide’s parents had just sold all their belongings in order to send him to the United States so that he—one of nine children—could help support his family and hopefully earn a college degree. Graduating with a degree in Computer Engineering and with a GPA of 3.97, Ngaide had surpassed even his own expectations.
Ngaide is now a graduate student in mathematics at Queens College, CUNY. He also teaches as an adjunct professor in the Mathematics Department at City Tech. “Being a student at City Tech taught me humility and acceptance. This college taught me that even a poor African man from a tiny village can become successful and realize his dream when he applies himself,” said Ngaide.
The other study, by PayScale, a company that collects and analyzes data on salary, ranks City Tech third in the nation in producing the highest paid associate degree-earning graduates. Alumna Maritza Lopez is a great example of what a City Tech associate degree can provide—both as a fulfilling and well-paid career and as a jumping off point to another degree.
Lopez endured a hardscrabble childhood growing up in an immigrant family in New York City where she learned from an early age to advocate for her father—often hospitalized with complications from diabetes. It was an encounter with a radiologic technician, whom she observed treating her father, that sealed Lopez’s decision to enter the medical profession.
Completing an associate degree in Radiologic Technology and Medical Imaging in 2012, Lopez was immediately hired by Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital as a licensed radiologic technologist. While gainfully employed at Mount Sinai, Lopez continued her studies at City Tech, earning a bachelor’s degree in Health Services Administration in 2014.
Lopez later discovered that the technician who inspired her to enter the medical field was a City Tech alumnus.
“While City Tech has long been recognized for preparing the well-educated, diverse, and technologically sophisticated graduates needed to advance New York’s economy, the College is particularly proud to also be identified as a significant driver of economic advancement for those who start with few resources,” said Dr. Russell Hotzler, President of City Tech.
It is no accident that five campuses of The City University of New York (CUNY) are in the top ten of selective public colleges in fostering mobility. These campuses, described in the Times article and the study as “working-class colleges,” provide an essential service to new immigrants and to historically disadvantaged groups—an open path to the middle class for those who would otherwise be denied.
The full study on college mobility can be found at Equality of Opportunity.
About PayScale: PayScale powers compensation solutions in the cloud to provide immediate visibility into the right pay for any position. Creator of the world’s largest database of rich salary profiles, PayScale offers modern compensation software and real-time, data driven insights for employees and employers alike. More than 5,000 customers, from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, use PayScale Benchmark™, PayScale Insight™ and MarketPay.