Story Social Mobility

CSU Campuses Among the Best in the Nation for Upward Mobility

Alisia Ruble



​​All 23 California State University campuses are recognized once again as being among the top universities in the nation for creating opportunities for students to improve their lives and the lives of their families, according to a recent ranking.

The "Social Mobility Index" (SMI) developed by PayScale and CollegeNET measures the extent to which a college or university educates more economically-disadvantaged students at lower tuition.

The SMI aims to help redirect the attribution of prestige in higher education to colleges that are addressing the major civic problems of our time.

"The SMI helps families and policymakers determine which colleges are addressing the national problem of economic mobility," said Jim Wolfston, CEO of CollegeNET. "Administrators have a better chance to help strengthen U.S. economic mobility and the promise of the 'American Dream' if they can identify and learn from colleges that are skilled at doing this."

All CSU campuses rank in the top quartile of the index with eleven campuses among the top 20: Chico (2), Pomona (3), Fresno (4), San José (5), Long Beach (6), East Bay (9), San Francisco (12), Northridge (13), Los Angeles (14), San Bernardino (17) and Stanislaus (19).

Four campuses—Pomona, Fresno, Long Beach and Stanislaus—have ranked in the SMI Top 20 for five consecutive years.

The CSU educates the most ethnically, economically and academically diverse student body in the nation and the university's Graduation Initiative 2025 is helping to close equity gaps between underserved students and their peers. Recently announced figures show progress toward that goal:

  • The graduation rate gap between underrepresented students of color and their peers narrowed two percentage points from 12.2 percent in 2017 to 10.5 percent in 2018, a 14 percent decrease.
  • The graduation rate gap between Pell-eligible students and their peers narrowed one percentage point from 10.6 percent in 2017 to 9.5 percent in 2018, a 10 percent decrease. 

CSU campuses are frequently recognized as engines of social mobility. Several CSU campuses were highlighted in a 2017 study conducted by the Equality of Opportunity Project in which the group of academics identified the nation's universities with the highest mobility rates. Cal State L.A. ranks number one on the list, and Cal Poly Pomona ranks number nine.

CSU campuses consistently rank highly for academic excellence, value, sustainability and opportunity. For a listing of recent rankings, visit our website