CMC Leads California Colleges in Income Transformation

(Mary Jane Coppock  • The Student Life)Claremont McKenna College leads all California colleges in the rate of students who enter school in the lowest income quintile and become members of the top one percent within a decade of graduation—a trend known as income transformation—according to a Jan. 24 Sacramento Bee article.

Twenty-nine percent of poorer students moved from the bottom to the top of the income distribution at CMC, while Harvey Mudd College, Pomona College, and Scripps College were also relatively successful at increasing post-graduate wages for low-income students.

CMC Vice President for Admission and Financial Aid Jeff Huang said that the data in the Sacramento Bee article used different metrics of measuring income than what was previously the norm. The article sourced the data on the colleges from the New York Times, and shifted the focus from colleges across America to California colleges.

“The New York Times did a massive study with it seems like professional researchers, and then they did a report on access in college education, and a ranking,” Huang said. “The Sacramento Bee story then, simply as a recall, just looked at the California institutions in [the] New York Times study.”

Huang said the data allows for a new perspective on students' fiscal success. 

“That data would probably come from a number of different sources that the New York Times got, some of which is available to us and some of which is not,” he said. “They tracked students who attended each institution and their families' tax returns, and came up with this metric. So this was new not just to CMC, but to everyone in higher education.”

However, all 5Cs admit a relatively low number of low-income students, with the percentage of students in the bottom income quintile at each school under 10 percent, according to the Sacramento Bee

Pomona Associate Dean of Admissions Ashley Pallie said that the Office of Admissions works to combat the issue of educational inequality. She emphasized that while socioeconomic status doesn’t always correspond to educational attainment, her office focuses on outreach to under-resourced public schools and low-income communities.

“In different parts of the country, [this outreach] means different things,” she said. “So in North Carolina, that meant our director drove two hours to meet with counselors at rural public schools. In Chicago where I recruit, it means getting outside of the suburbs or the city center and visiting charter schools, under-resourced public schools, and community-based organizations in areas that may not know as much about us.”

HMC Director of Admissions Peter Osgood said that HMC is working to increase HMC's small percentage of low-income students by partnering with a new nonprofit foundation called Raise.me.

“The whole point of [Raise.me] is to get a few students at an earlier stage in their education, and to put in an incentive for them to do the kinds of things that make them more eligible for colleges, and particularly, the more prestigious colleges," Osgood said. "If a student meets that minimum bar — which is determined by family income and their overall GPA — they can be in ninth grade and earn money that can accrue ... They can end up getting as much as $40,000.”

Raise.me does not require students to attend Harvey Mudd or any of the colleges that have partnered with it. Rather, it seeks to give students the initiative to succeed academically, and to help transform the lives of students who are attending under-resourced schools.

CMC's admissions office also partners with nonprofit organizations to help make CMC more accessible to low-income students, according to Huang.

“Questbridge finds students from underserved high schools, where there aren’t a lot of recruiters from colleges coming through, and they find those superstars,” Huang said. “They vet [students] for need, and if we admit them, we give them a full scholarship to attend CMC. There’s a program that I participated in, in New York City, called Prep4Prep, and there are various regional ones across the country that find low-income kids in different cities and [help] them with their partner institutions, in this case CMC.”

The low-income students who do attend the 5Cs, however, have access to alumni associations that maintain the community developed at the schools long after graduation, and help with income mobility.

Jennifer Green, the Director of Alumni and Parent Relations at HMC, described how this network creates career opportunities for students.

“Alumni frequently advertise internship and job opportunities at the college and avidly attend on-campus career fairs to recruit and hire graduates," Green said. "Current students are encouraged to join the robust alumni LinkedIn network as early as their first year at Mudd to expand their professional connections.”

Craig Arteaga-Johnson, Pomona's Assistant Vice President for Advancement, Alumni, and Parent Engagement, said this community aids students in achieving not just fiscal success, but lifetime success.

“We provide opportunity for alumni to connect with each other through their careers, and ... for lifelong learning," Arteaga-Johnson said. "One of the most valued experiences for our alumni is simply staying in touch with what they know to be a wonderful community of people characterized by intellectual vitality, passion, and an interest to make a difference in the world."

Arteaga-Johnson also emphasized that his office works to make alumni programming available to alumni of all socioeconomic backgrounds. 

“We’re sensitive to making sure that all alumni can take part in our alumni programs," he said. "There are several programs that have costs associated with them, but we work to keep those low, and many of our programs are free.”