August 24, 2023

AASCU Members Rank Among the Top Institutions on Third Way’s Economic Mobility Index

Third Way, a national think tank in Washington, DC, recently released 2023 Economic Mobility Index (EMI) provides a new way of looking at institutions of higher education, one that is based upon economic return for students from the lowest socioeconomic backgrounds. Results show that AASCU members rank among the top tier of institutions that provide the best return on investment for low-income students, providing true upward economic mobility.

The EMI utilizes publicly available data to rank institutions into tiers based upon enrollment of students who receive Pell grants and the institution’s price-to-earnings premium, a measure of how long it takes low-income students to recover the cost of their credential based upon what they paid and their earnings premium from having enrolled and completed their degree. With this, institutions that serve more Pell recipients and that are more affordable tend to rank higher on the EMI.

Overall, 281 institutions were classified as Tier 1 or the top 20% of the EMI, meaning they rank the highest in terms of return on investment and upward economic mobility for low-income students. AASCU members represent 41% of all institutions in Tier 1 and 63% of all public institutions in Tier 1. What’s more, of the top 10 institutions with the highest EMI ranking, nine are AASCU members. These data further prove that AASCU members are true engines of upward mobility for the more than 3.2 million undergraduates they serve.

Findings also reveal that more than one-third of institutions in Tier 1 are Hispanic-serving Institutions and seven are historically Black colleges and universities. This is notable in that it further shows the significant role of minority serving institutions in enrolling and propelling students of color up the socioeconomic ladder.

College rankings have historically been viewed as a means of measuring the value, success, and prestige of institutions of higher education. Third Way offers a different approach that focuses on how well institutions propel students up the socioeconomic ladder. Especially now, when the value of postsecondary education is being questioned more than ever, these new data show the true value that AASCU members bring to students, families, and communities – especially for those with the greatest financial need.

AASCU institutions are transformational.

Our members offer high return on investment for students with the greatest financial need—providing real economic mobility.


Number of AASCU members ranked in the top 10 of the 2023 Economic Mobility Index (EMI)


Percentage of all public institutions in the EMI top tier that are AASCU members


Percentage of all institutions in the EMI top tier that are AASCU members

Source: Third Way. (2023, August 23.) 2023 Economic Mobility Report.