students in graduation robes and caps sitting outdoors in stadium seating
Story Social Mobility

CSU Institutions Serve as Engines of Social Mobility, CollegeNET Index Shows


National rankings highlight the transformative power of a CSU degree to improve students’ lives.

students in graduation robes and caps sitting outdoors in stadium seating

​Photo by Sean DuFrene/Cal State Long Beach 


​CollegeNET's 2021 “Social Mobility Index" (SMI) once again placed California State University campuses as top performers in economic mobility, highlighting the transformative power of a CSU degree to propel alumni and their families into higher economic strata.

CSU campuses claimed 50% of the top 20 spots in this year's rankings, with six campuses in the top 10.

The campuses included in the top 20 of the SMI are: Los Angeles (2), Long Beach (3), Fresno State (5), San Bernardino (6), Northridge (7), Dominguez Hills (8), Pomona (13), Channel Islands (15), Fullerton (19) and Bakersfield​ (20).

The 10 CSU campuses in the nation's top 20 are collectively providing more than 250,000 students with opportunities to pursue good paying jobs and improve their communities, thanks to high-quality degrees offered at an unparalleled value. 

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.

At the CSU, nearly one-third of undergraduates are the first in their family 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 bettered their lives with a CSU degree. Cal State Long Beach alumnus Robert Garcia, who was elected mayor of Long Beach in 2014, is one example: “Coming from Peru with no money, very little education, not knowing anyone here, and to be able to work hard, graduate college, and then to become an elected official who has the chance to give back—that's everything," said Garcia in a 2016 interview with Garcia is part of the CSU alumni community that's more than 4 million strong, powering the economy and improving communities across California. 

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. This fall, the CSU is further focusing its initiative on closing equity gaps between students from underrepresented communities and their peers.


Graduation Initiative