Story Social Mobility

CSU Among the Top in Social Mobility Across the Nation

Janessa Thropay

California State University San Marcos earns top honors for graduating more economically disadvantaged students at lower tuition into good paying jobs.

​CSU S​an Marcos ranked No. 1 in CollegeNET's 2022 Social Mobility Index.


Multiple California State University campuses have again placed among the nation's top performers in economic mobility in CollegeNET's 2022 “Social Mobility index" (SMI), showcasing the unparalleled value of a CSU degree in elevating the economic trajectory of alumni and their families.

CSU campuses claimed eight of the top 20 spots in this year's rankings, with four campuses in the top 10. CSU San Marcos (CSUSM) claimed the No. 1 spot out of over 1,400 schools measured this year by CollegeNET.

“I'm thrilled that the 2022 Social Mobility Index recognizes the critical work we're doing in this area," CSUSM President Ellen Neufeldt said in a press release​. “We're building upon CSUSM's reputation as an escalator of social mobility. At a time when the value of higher education is being called into question, CSUSM stands out as a beacon of hope and opportunity. This recognition reflects the incredible work of our entire campus community to put our students and our region first in all that we do."

The eight CSU campuses included in the top 20 of the SMI are: San Marcos (1), Long Beach (4), Los Angeles (9), Bakersfield (10), East Bay (11), Northridge (15), San Francisco (16), Pomona (17). These universities collectively provide more than 190,000 students with the tools and resources to take charge of their future, pursue good paying jobs, and make a positive impact in their communities. As quality and affordability are staples of a CSU degree, alumni are able to walk confidently into the workforce without the financial repercussions of high college debt.

The annual SMI report measures the extent of a university's impact in providing opportunities for economically disadvantaged students to graduate into well-paying jobs. Methodology is based on factors like cost of attendance, economic background of the student body, graduation rates and early career salaries. This year's rankings also included a new metric called Ethos, measuring how well a school's messages and communications inform students and the public about its mission and the value of a college degree.

At the CSU, nearly one-third of undergraduates are the first in their fam​ily to attend college, and nearly half of CSU students are from underrepresented communities. In addition, half of CSU undergraduates receive the Pell Grant, indicating financial need.

Across the CSU's 23 campuses, there are countless examples of alumni who have enhanced their lives with a CSU degree. One such example is CSUN alumna Lynn Gay who remembers thinking, “life is too short," before deciding to attend college. “That decision changed my life, and I can honestly say it is the best decision I have ever made. I went from scraping by to earning six figures in a matter of years. I got the first job I applied for out of college and am currently in my 23rd year of working for iHeart Media," said Gay in a 2021 interview with Gay is part of the CSU alumni community that's more than 4 million strong, powering the economy and improving communities across California.

The CSU also prioritizes students who transfer from other institutions, creating programs and initiatives geared toward providing the necessary guidance and resources for transfer students to have the smoothest transition possible. Last year, 21 campuses were recognized for their support of transfer students, highlighting the success of Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT)—a program started in 2010 that provides California Community College (CCC) students with a clearer, more effective pathway to a four-year degree.

As a leader in the national conversation around economic mobility, the CSU's Graduation Initiative 2025 is focused on helping students earn degrees in less time—finishing with less debt and entering the workforce earlier. The CSU continues to focus its initiative on closing stubborn equity gaps between students from underrepresented communities and their peers.


Learn more about the rankings and accolades the 23 CSU campuses have received.