For Alex Kosoglyadov (’09), working on Wall Street was in his family genes—just not the way you might expect.
Over a period of several months in the 1990s, his father, uncle, and grandfather simultaneously worked as confectionary vendors on Wall Street. “They each worked on three different corners,” Mr. Kosoglyadov recalls. “Sometimes I jokingly wondered if the fourth corner was saved for me.” But two decades later—with a Baruch degree in hand—Kosoglyadov earned a spot in a Wall Street corner office, working his way up from entry-level analyst to director of equity derivatives at BMO Capital. Today, he works at Nomura, a global finance company, in the same capacity. Stories like Kosoglyadov’s are common at Baruch: alumni who go on to achieve significantly higher-earning careers than their parents. It’s a key aspect of the phenomenon known as social mobility, the movement of individuals or households between social and economic strata—and lately, data has shown that few schools generate social mobility as well as Baruch.
The American Dream, Analyzed
For Kosoglyadov—and so many others—the quest for success is wrapped up in the American Dream, defined as the opportunity for anyone, regardless of background, to achieve economic prosperity. In recent years, that core ideal has been quantified thanks to the nationwide conversation on social mobility, with researchers using big data to explore how Americans can best achieve it. Not surprisingly, college education plays a major role.
In the landmark 2017 study “Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility,” a group of academics and researchers from Stanford, Brown, and Harvard universities examined mass quantities of public data, including de-identified tax returns and tuition records, gathered by the Equality of Opportunity Project to pinpoint the economic circumstances of U.S. college students and their financial success after graduation.
Their data uncovered some troubling trends: Children’s prospects of earning more than their parents have fallen from 90 percent to 50 percent over the past half century, and at 38 colleges in America, including 5 in the Ivy League, more students come from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60 percent. In other words, the colleges that offered many low-income students pathways to success are becoming less accessible. Moreover, the country’s most elite universities were not admitting enough lower-
income students to impact social mobility.
Baruch is bucking these trends. Diving deep into Equality of Opportunity Project data, New York Times researchers determined that Baruch is an impressive engine for social mobility, ranking in the top 10 nationwide for providing alumni with the tools for upward mobility. Findings show that 79 percent of students attending Baruch come from the bottom fifth of income distribution but end up in the top three-fifths after graduation.
New York Times columnist David Leonhardt expanded the discussion with his article “America’s Great Working-Class Colleges,” where he noted: “The new data shows, for example, that the City University of New York system propelled almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all eight Ivy League campuses, plus Duke, M.I.T., Stanford and Chicago, combined.”
Baruch, Mr. Leonhardt stated, was one of the country’s remaining “great working-class colleges.”
Abundant Accolades, Innovative Programs
Baruch’s remarkable success propelling graduates into the middle class and beyond has been garnering recognition and headlines for several years. In 2017 The Chronicle of Higher Education placed Baruch #1 among four-year public institutions nationwide in its ranking of “Colleges with the Highest Student-Mobility Rates.” And CollegeNET, a higher-education technology company, ranked Baruch top in the country in its 2017 Social Mobility Index, a list that ranks colleges based on how effectively they “enroll students from low-income backgrounds and graduate them into
good-paying jobs.” It was the third year in a row that Baruch earned top honors.
This year CollegeNET followed up its praise by naming Baruch a Social Mobility Innovator. In its announcement of the recognition, CollegeNET praised Baruch for its “start-to-finish program that makes college affordable” and that supports low-income students “every step of the way—from matriculation to career placement. These services are critical because many Baruch students face significant challenges to college completion.”
Indeed, Baruch provides students with both a world-class education and a wealth of programs and services to help them outside of the classroom. In addition to generous scholarships and financial aid, initiatives like Executives On Campus, Success Network, and the Percy Ellis Sutton SEEK program—not to mention the Starr Career Development Center, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary—offer mentorship opportunities, career consulting, and exclusive access to jobs and internships.
Speaking with CollegeNET, Baruch President Mitchel B. Wallerstein, PhD, noted, “Baruch has had career services and mentorship opportunities in place for decades, and they really do help propel students into their first jobs and beyond.” President Wallerstein continued, “Our support services include soft-skills training, such as programs designed to help improve both written and spoken English, since many of the College’s students do not speak English as their native language. We also provide career advising and résumé writing, networking etiquette guidance and opportunities, and financial support so students can take valuable and often unpaid internships. Sometimes students even need suits to wear to the job interview; the College maintains racks of donated garments exclusively for this purpose.”
The Real-World Impact
Big data helps to show to what extent Baruch is an engine of social mobility, but to what effect can be found in the abundance of incredible stories of the College’s alumni and students.
Of course, there’s Kosoglyadov, the Wall Street derivatives director, who cites his Baruch experience as one of “the best professional decisions” he’s ever made, saving him from “a pile of student debt” that he would have accrued at any of the other programs to which he had applied. The Starr Center helped him secure his first interview with BMO, setting him on the pathway of his current career.
Stories of social mobility success at Baruch invariably involve more than just the cost of education. Take Shantel Deleon (’17), who worried about both the educational and financial challenges inherent in obtaining an undergraduate degree and, along with her mother and brother in the East Bronx, wondered how the family could afford college. Thanks to generous scholarships and active involvement in the SEEK program, her Baruch dream became a reality. She starts a full-time job at EY this August. “I met people who were invested in my journey at Baruch,” Ms. Deleon says, “and I was receptive to the feedback and opportunities they gave me.”
For Mamta Melwani (’18), a senior studying in the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, it was the nurturing environment at Baruch, with professors who embrace economic inclusion, that made her college experience invaluable. Born in Singapore and raised in modest circumstances in India, Ms. Melwani is now an intern for the New York State Legislature in Albany, and she’s looking forward to her postgraduation future. “I’m where I am because of the strong relationships I’ve built with my professors,” she says. “They’re patient and have gone out of their way for me, encouraging me to learn what I need to learn, to push past my limits, and explore things outside of my comfort zone.”
These stories are just the tip of the iceberg, and they add up to a simple truth: Baruch provides students of all backgrounds with the education, skills, and tools they need—acting as a highly effective engine of social mobility and propelling them toward realization of their American Dream.
“At a time when the gulf between the richest and poorest households in the country is widening, education must have a leading role in correcting this economic inequality,” explains Baruch President Wallerstein. “It is essential that higher education be made available at an affordable price to those who need it most.”