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Story Social Mobility

Social Mobility Index Highlights Transformative Power of the CSU

Alisia Ruble

Nearly two-thirds of CSU campuses placed in the top 20 of CollegeNET’s annual rankings for providing upward mobility opportunities.

Three young women sit on a stone bench laughing.
CollegeNET recently released its 2019 Social Mobility Index—a listing of the nation’s top universities propelling students and their families into higher economic strata. And nowhere in the country is this happening on a bigger scale than at the California State University.

CSU campuses dominate the 2019 SMI rankings with 22 of 23 campuses ranking in the top 17% and CSU campuses accounting for nearly two-thirds of the top 20 spots: Los Angeles (2), Fresno (3), Channel Islands (5), San Bernardino (6), Long Beach (7), Stanislaus (8), Pomona (10), Northridge (11), East Bay (15), Bakersfield (17), Fullerton (18), Monterey Bay (19) and Dominguez Hills (20). 

The 13 CSU campuses in the nation's top 20 are providing a collective 280,000 students with opportunities to pursue good paying jobs and improve their communities, thanks to high-quality degrees offered at an unparalleled value. 

While the SMI uses several variables for its methodology, it places the most significance on access, outcome and institutional capacity, reserving the highest honor for those schools that accept and graduate the largest number of economically disadvantaged students. 

The primary goal: Highlight those institutions that are acting to solve the urgent problem of declining economic mobility in our country.

A leader in the national conversation around economic mobility, the CSU launched Graduation Initiative 2025 to help students earn degrees in less time—finishing with less debt and entering the workforce earlier. In addition, the initiative is focused on closing equity gaps between students from underrepresented communities and their peers. 

Efforts have resulted in more students earning degrees at higher rates than ever before in CSU history. Final data from the 2018-19 academic year shows four- and six-year completion rates for first-time students and two- and four-year completion rates for transfer students are at all-time highs. 

The CSU also provides more than half of all undergraduate degrees earned by California’s Latinx, African American and Native American students, who are historically underrepresented in higher education. Graduation Initiative 2025 aims to help more of these students earn degrees. 

As the largest public four-year university in the country, the CSU opens doors to educational opportunity for nearly half a million students and awards more than 127,000 degrees each year. These graduates join an alumni community that’s more than 3.8 million strong, powering the economy and improving their communities. 

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