According to Jon Friedman, a professor at Brown University and one of the study's authors, both low and high-income students who attend top-tier universities are likely to move up economically. However, far fewer low-income students are admitted to those universities than higher-income students.
The good news for those who find themselves with the option of attending a state school is that the experiences there can sometimes be as effective when it comes to helping people move up the economic ladder.
"An important finding from our study is that while a fraction of students enrolled, kids are most likely to move up at the very very top schools," Jon Friedman said. "In fact, most of the kids that move from the bottom of the income distribution to the top, don’t go to ivy league schools. In fact, there are more students who make that move at Cal State L.A. than I think at the entire Ivy League. Simply because Cal State L.A. enrolls so many more kids from low income families."
Friedman did say that mid and lower-tier schools have become less accessible to low-income students over time.
"Whether it’s because of budget cuts, or because of changing admissions policies, or changing tuition, I think that that’s a concerning trend if we think that access to these potential engines of mobility has been falling over time," he said.
UCLA, Cal State L.A. and other Southern California schools have seen some of the highest levels of mobility from low to high-income amongst students that attend them.
To hear the entire conversation with Friedman click on the audio embedded at the top of this post.