The 10 Best Colleges in the U.S. to Become Rich

College is supposed to be the ticket to a better life, but it doesn’t always work that way. Some students dedicate years of their lives and spend buckets of money to earn a degree, only to graduate and find they can’t get a job that pays enough to cover their bills.

The problem is especially acute for lower-income students, who don’t get the same earnings boost from attending college as middle- and upper-income students, research has found. After graduation, they take lower-paying jobs on average, and their salaries never catch up with their richer peers.

The reason for the differences in earnings are hard to tease out, but the schools lower-income students attend is likely one factor. Poorer kids who attend the Harvards and Yales of the world stand a good chance of joining the top 20% of income earners, a study by the Equality of Opportunity Project found. But these schools admit few students and the share who are in the lower-income bracket is relatively small.

Ivy-caliber universities aren’t the only schools moving low-income students up the ladder, though. A handful of less-selective schools also give poorer students a good chance to become rich later in life, researchers found.

They analyzed data for more than 2,000 American colleges available from the U.S. Department of Education to identify the top 10 schools with the best mobility rate. Schools had a high mobility rate if they enrolled a large share of low-income students (those whose families were in the bottom fifth of the income distribution) and if many of those students eventually joined the top 20% of earners.

Public, two- and four-year schools in just three states — New York, California, and Texas — dominate the list of best colleges for mobility. One private, for-profit college also cracked the top 10. Is your school on the list?

10. University of Texas, El Paso

university of texas el paso

Fans cheer at the Sun Bowl stadium at the University of Texas, El Paso. | Rachel Rogers/AFP/Getty Images

  • Percent of low-income students: 28%
  • Share who make it to the top 20%: 24.4%
  • Overall mobility rate: 6.8%

The University of Texas, El Paso, is a public four-year school with nearly 24,000 students. Eighty percent of the students are Hispanic and an additional 5% are from Mexico. The school offers 72 undergraduate majors and in-state tuition is $7,000 a year. It has a 100% acceptance rate, according to U.S. News & World Report, and the most popular fields of study are business, health, and engineering.

9. Cal State Polytechnic, Pomona

Cal State Polytechnic Pomona campus

Cal State Polytechnic, Pomona | Cal Poly Pomona via Facebook

  • Percent of low-income students: 14.9%
  • Share who make it to the top 20%: 45.8%
  • Overall mobility rate: 6.8%

One out of every 14 engineers in California is a graduate of Cal Poly Pomona, a public four-year school near Los Angeles that’s one of the top public universities in the West, according to U.S. News & World Report. The school, which combines hands-on learning with traditional academic programs, is also more selective than some schools on this list, with an admissions rate of 39%. In-state tuition is about $7,000 a year, one reason Money ranked it one of the best values in higher education.

8. South Texas College

South Texas College

South Texas College | South Texas College via Facebook

  • Percent of low-income students: 52.4%
  • Share who make it to the top 20%: 13.2%
  • Overall mobility rate: 6.9%

Sixty-seven percent of the 34,000 students at this community college in McAllen, Texas, are the first in their families to attend college. More than half of enrollees are lower-income. Most students are working toward two-year degrees or enrolled in certificate programs, but the school offers a handful of bachelor’s degrees, as well. Tuition and fees are about $4,000 a year.

7. Glendale Community College

Glendale Community College

Glendale Community College | Glendale Community College via Facebook

  • Percent of low-income students: 32.4%
  • Share who make it to the top 20%: 21.9%
  • Overall mobility rate: 7.1%

More than 30% of students at this community college outside of Los Angeles are low-income, and roughly 22% eventually move up to the top 20% of income earners. Nearly half of the students at the school eventually transfer to four-year colleges, the Los Angeles Times reported, a greater share than at most community colleges in California.

6. City University of New York System

job fair

People attend a job fair hosted by City University of New York. | Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

  • Percent of low-income students: 28.7%
  • Share who make it to the top 20%: 25.2%
  • Overall mobility rate: 7.2%

CUNY schools, New York City’s network of public colleges and universities, were some of the best in country at moving students up the income ladder. The system consists of 11 senior colleges that offer bachelor’s degrees, as well as seven community colleges and five professional schools. In total, more than 270,000 students are enrolled at CUNY. Several of the system’s senior colleges, including Baruch College, Queens College, and Hunter College, are among the top public schools in the Northeast, according to U.S. News.

5. University of Texas, Pan American

A sign that says UTRGV

A sign for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley | The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley via Facebook

  • Percent of low-income students: 38.7%
  • Share who make it to the top 20%: 19.8%
  • Overall mobility rate: 7.6%

Technically speaking, the University of Texas, Pan American, doesn’t exist anymore. The public, four-year school in Edinburg, Texas, merged with the University of Texas, Brownsville, to form the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in 2015. The combined school has more than 120 graduate and undergraduate programs and recently opened a new school of medicine.

4. Technical Career Institutes

TCI College students

Students at TCI College | TCI College of Technology via Facebook

  • Percent of low-income students: 40.3%
  • Share who make it to the top 20%: 19.8%
  • Overall mobility rate: 8%

The only private, for-profit school to make the list is Technical Career Institutes, or TCI College. It offers 14 associate degree and certificate programs in subjects, such as business administration, automotive technology, paralegal studies, and HVAC technology. The New York City school also has accelerated-learning programs and options for students to earn their high school equivalency while working on a certificate or two-year degree.

3. Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University students hold up welcome signs

Stony Brook University | Stony Brook University via Facebook

  • Percent of low-income students: 16.4%
  • Share who make it to the top 20%: 51.2%
  • Overall mobility rate: 8.4%

Part of the SUNY system, Stony Brook University is one of the top 50 public schools in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. The school offers a special program designed to provide access and support to economically disadvantaged students, which has won high praise from participants, some of whom have gone on to careers as doctors, teachers, and in finance.

2. Pace University

Pace University building

Pace University | Peter Kramer/Getty Images

  • Percent of low-income students: 15.2%
  • Share who make it to the top 20%: 55.6%
  • Overall mobility rate: 8.4%

Pace University is one of just two private schools that made the top 10 for economic mobility. The New York City school is far more expensive than many colleges on the list. (Tuition alone is more than $42,000 a year.) But 15% of students are lower-income, and more than half of those eventually go on to land jobs that put them in the top 20% of earners. The average undergraduate receives $22,774 in financial support directly from the school, and the school has a 95% full-time employment rate for graduates who used career services.

1. Cal State University, Los Angeles

Cal State LA campus

California State University, Los Angeles | Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

  • Percent of low-income students: 33.1%
  • Share who make it to the top 20%: 29.9%
  • Overall mobility rate: 9.9%

Cal State, Los Angeles, did a better job than any other school in the country of moving poorer students up the economic ladder. A third of the more than 20,000 students at this public, four-year school are low-income, and 30% of them eventually become part of the top 20% of income earners. Sixty percent are the first in their families to attend college. Tuition is less than $7,000 a year, and the school is one of the top 20 public schools in the West, according to U.S. News.

More from Money & Career Cheat Sheet:

More Articles About:   , ,