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Story Social Mobility

CSU Campuses Dominate Top of Social Mobility Index Rankings

Alisia Ruble


A large group of people wearing graduation caps and gowns cheering and smiling.
​The California State University once again received some of the highest possible ratings in CollegeNET’s 2020 “Social Mobility Index” (SMI), which ranks nearly 1,500 colleges and universities in the United States according to their contribution to economic mobility. 

While all 22 ranked CSU campuses are in the top 16% of the SMI, CSU campuses claim 70% of the top 20 spots, and four of those campuses—Fresno, Long Beach, Pomona and Stanislaus—have ranked in the top 20 for seven consecutive years.

The campuses included in the top 20 of the SMI are: Los Angeles (2), Fresno (3), Northridge (4), Long Beach (5), Pomona (6), San Bernardino (7), Dominguez Hills (10), Fullerton (12), Sacramento (13), Bakersfield (14), San José (16), Stanislaus (17), San Francisco ( 19) and Channel Islands (20).

The SMI measures to what extent a higher education institution accepts students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and graduates them into well-paying jobs, based on factors like cost of attendance, economic background of the student body, graduation rates and early career salaries. CollegeNET says a high SMI ranking means a school is contributing in a responsible way to solving the problem of declining economic mobility in the U.S.

The CSU is the nation’s largest public four-year university, opening doors to educational opportunities for nearly half a million students each year. In fact, the university welcomed its largest-ever student body for the fall 2020 term and reported record high retention rates, bucking higher education trends across the country during the pandemic.

Nearly half  of the CSU’s students are from traditionally underrepresented groups and about 45% of students are Pell-eligible, which means they have demonstrated an exceptional financial need. A CSU education offers an unparalleled value with one of the most affordable tuition costs in the nation and robust financial aid packages, ensuring a college education is possible for all Californians.

The CSU is also key to California’s economic recovery as the university awards more than half of the state’s bachelor’s degrees. In spring 2020, the university awarded a record number of degrees, sending 128,925 graduates into the workforce. And the CSU is meeting goals for Graduation Initiative 2025, bringing student achievement to an all-time high and keeping California on track to meet its need for 1.1 million more degreed workers by 2030.

CSU campuses are frequently recognized for academic excellence and contributions to the public good. View more of the CSU's "best of" rankings​
Graduation Initiative