The Social Mobility Index (SMI) is a nontraditional college ranking that emphasizes indicators of economic opportunity rather than prestige. In the ninth annual SMI, released in November 2022, FIT was ranked in the top 20 of 1,414 institutions nationwide. Among these 20 inclusive colleges and universities are 10 public institutions in New York State, four of which are in the State University of New York system.
The SMI, tabulated by CollegeNET, a Portland, Ore.–based technology provider, relies on six factors:
- Economic background, the percentage of students whose families earn less than $48,000 annually;
- Ethos, a measure of how committed an institution is to counteracting reputation-based rankings, which, according to CollegeNET, push colleges to become more expensive and exclusive;
- Graduation rate;
- Early career salary; and
- Endowment, an indicator of an institution’s capacity for making an impact. This measure is given the least weight, however, because high endowments often enable exclusionary practices, the SMI’s creators say.
FIT has particularly positive scores for early career salary, tuition, student debt load, and ethos.
FIT’s Office of Admissions makes every effort to reach students across economic divisions, says Richard Sunday, Director of Admissions and Strategic Recruitment. Much of that involves encouraging and educating prospective students well before they apply.
“We’re trying to get as much engagement as we can as early as possible,” Sunday says.
The college offers workshops to help prospective students understand the portfolio submission and other application requirements. FIT’s Discovery Day, slated to take place in person again in March, allows high school sophomores and juniors to experience the college’s myriad majors via hands-on demonstrations.
And FIT’s new Social Justice Center not only provides scholarships, support, and opportunities to BIPOC students, it aims to reach young people and teach them about the creative industries.
For two weeks in fall 2022, prospective students who could not afford SUNY’s $50 application fee were able to submit for free. And when comparing applicants, FIT’s Office of Admissions considers the fact that students in well-funded school districts might be given more educational and cultural opportunities than others.
And a major indicator of social mobility—and value proposition for parents, Sunday says—is the significant percentage of FIT students who get jobs in their fields before they graduate. “How much more of a selling point do you need?”