Sixth Annual Social Mobility Index (SMI) Highlights Performance and Pitfalls as Attention to Social Mobility Grows Among US Colleges and Universities

The Goal of the SMI is to Help Redirect the Attribution of “Prestige” in Higher Education Toward Schools that are Addressing the Most Pressing Civic Problem in America Today — Advancing Economic Opportunity for All

PORTLAND, Ore.--()--CollegeNET, Inc., a leading provider of web-based on-demand technologies for higher education, today released the 2019 Social Mobility Index (SMI), a data-driven analysis that ranks four-year US colleges and universities according to how effectively they enroll students from low-income backgrounds and graduate them into well-paying jobs.

Schools with Strong and Sustained Social Mobility Track Records

As in 2018, public universities in California — both the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems — dominate the 2019 SMI rankings, accounting for more than half of the Top 20 spots this year. Four of those schools (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; California State University, Fresno; California State University, Long Beach; and California State University, Stanislaus) have ranked in the Top 20 for six consecutive years.

The CUNY system in New York City placed five schools in the 2019 SMI Top 20, including Baruch College, which continues to hold its #1 ranking for the fifth consecutive year.

Winston-Salem State University, in North Carolina, has ranked in the SMI Top 20 for five of the past six years.

Advancing Social Mobility on Campuses from Coast to Coast

In addition to the top performers above, other schools advancing social mobility include:

Rutgers University, Newark (Top 30 ranking for the past three years and #12 ranking in 2019); Wichita State University (Top 10 percent ranking for five of the past six years); University of California, San Diego (Top 10 percent ranking for the past five years); Notre Dame de Namur University, in Silicon Valley (Top 20 percent ranking in 2019); Old Dominion University (Top 10 percent ranking in 2019); New Mexico State University (Top 20 percent ranking in 2019); University of California, Santa Cruz (Top 10 percent ranking in 2019); University of California, Irvine (Top 5 percent ranking in 2019); and University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Top 20 percent ranking in 2019).

The 2019 SMI now benchmarks 1,458 schools.

The Top 20 SMI Schools, 2019 Rankings

CUNY Bernard M Baruch College

California State University, Los Angeles

California State University, Fresno

CUNY Queens College

California State University, Channel Islands

California State University, San Bernardino

California State University, Long Beach

California State University, Stanislaus

CUNY Brooklyn College

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

California State University, Northridge

Rutgers University, Newark

Texas A&M International University

CUNY Lehman College

California State University, East Bay

CUNY Hunter College

California State University, Bakersfield

California State University, Fullerton

California State University, Monterey Bay

California State University, Dominguez Hills

Read more about the 2019 SMI rankings and methodology here.

Redefining the Notion of Prestige in Higher Education

Founded on the principle that growing economic disparity in this country is the most pressing problem of our time, the SMI seeks to redirect the attribution of "prestige" in our higher education system toward colleges that are advancing economic opportunity and social mobility.

Unlike other college rankings that are aimed primarily at helping students select a college,” says CollegeNET President Jim Wolfston, “the SMI helps families and policymakers determine which colleges are addressing the national problem of economic mobility. Administrators have a better chance to help strengthen US economic mobility and the promise of the American Dream if they can identify and learn from colleges that are skilled at doing this.”

Given that the US is now the least economically mobile among developed nations,” says Wolfston, “it is irresponsible to say an education institution is ‘better’ because it has a huge endowment, or because it admits students with higher SAT scores — which are most tightly correlated to family income. It is irresponsible to say an institution is ‘better’ because it drives up admissions application counts, turns away more students and then boasts about ‘selectivity.’ In today’s world, where the American Dream is threatened, real prestige must accord to universities that educate and advance all motivated students, regardless of their economic background. This is the prestige that the Social Mobility Index seeks to promote.”

Higher Education’s Vital Role in the Learning Age

Higher Education is the most important asset in the Learning Age,” adds Wolfston, who recently delivered a keynote address at Old Dominion University’s Social Mobility Symposium.If we can distribute this vital asset across the economic spectrum, we can optimize our nation’s human capital development, prepare the next generation for citizenship and ensure social and economic opportunity. Most importantly, by rejecting the current trend toward on-campus economic homogeneity, a higher education institution can offer its students the chance to encounter a more challenging mix of people with diverse ideas, perspectives and backgrounds. Collisions with the unexpected and unfamiliar are what best sharpen and prepare innovative minds. Thus, economic inclusion is not only a solution to a social justice issue, it is an optimizing strategy for training tomorrow’s innovators.”

Acknowledging Institutional Excellence

CollegeNET acknowledges schools that are advancing social mobility through innovative programs. CollegeNET presents the annual Social Mobility Innovator Awards to student success leaders from US colleges and universities at the Social Mobility Summit — an annual forum on economic inclusion and best practices for student success held in Portland, Oregon, each summer. CollegeNET recently published an e-book that describes best practices from student success professionals pioneering innovative programs that support underserved and underrepresented students’ academic, personal and financial needs. Further, CollegeNET sponsors regional conferences to debate and discuss social mobility issues. Recent on-campus events have been held at the University of California, Irvine; the University of California, Santa Cruz; the University of California, San Diego; Wichita State University; Winston-Salem State University; and Notre Dame de Namur University. CollegeNET-sponsored student success events are scheduled to take place at Rutgers University, Newark and New Mexico State University in 2020.


CollegeNET, Inc.
Jill Thacker


CollegeNET, Inc.
Jill Thacker