In their 2018 student support rankings guides, education research publisher SR Education Group has announced that Illinois Tech has ranked among the top schools in two out of five categories based on supporting five student populations: LGBTQ+ friendly, disability-friendly, women in STEM, Christian, and economic mobility. Of those categories, Illinois Tech qualified for the Best and Most Affordable Online Colleges for Economic Mobility category as well as for the Best and Most Affordable Online Colleges for Women in STEM.
Before going any further into these categories and Illinois Tech’s qualification for them, a clarification must be made over the fact that SR Education Group’s categories all contain the verbiage that the schools within are the best “online” colleges for their respective populations. While it seems incorrect that Illinois Tech should be rated as an online university and compared to college programs that exist entirely online, the research methodology of SR Education Group states that “Schools with programs that require some on-campus coursework were still considered for our rankings if the amount of in-person work was limited to less than two weeks’ worth of in-person requirements. This allows students to retain their current employment or other personal responsibilities.” Thus, the rankings of SR Education Group contain 968 different schools, even ones not conventionally thought to exist online, such as the University of Houston or Illinois Tech.
The first category that Illinois Tech qualified for as of SR Education Group’s 2018 findings is as one of the 92 Best Online Colleges for Student Economic Mobility. According to SR Education Group, these institutions are ranked for having the “highest upward mobility rates for low-income students.” These rankings were decided using data from the Equality of Opportunity Project and are based on mobility scores created using numbers of students that moved from the lowest to highest income brackets in the U.S., Pell Grant rates, and early career salaries. Of the 92 schools listed, Illinois Tech ranked at number 29, with a mobility score of 86.9 out of 100.
The other category Illinois Tech qualified for is as one of the 76 Best Online Schools for Women in STEM. Given the disproportionate representation of women in STEM fields, these schools are notable for the demonstrated support within them for female students. For the study, STEM was defined by using the definition from the National Center for Education Statistics which defines it as any educational program based on “agriculture and natural resources, architecture, biology and biomedical sciences, computer and information sciences, engineering and engineering technologies, health studies, mathematics and statistics, and physical and social sciences.” These schools were ranked using a STEM-friendly score based on female representation in the student population, number of STEM degrees offered, and the overall extent of online resources and support for female students in STEM. Of these 76 schools, Illinois Tech is number 24 with a STEM-friendly score of 82.97.
With a student body that is quick to throw around statistics about how unhappy the student body ranks in national surveys, it is sometimes nice to reflect on the positive aspects and competitive rankings of the university we all call our home. While the definitions and categories of SR Education Group may come across as nuanced, they are still legitimate and statistically value rankings that portray Illinois Tech in a positive light, and some recognition should be given to that fact.