08:30 AM

CSUSM Ranks High in New Economic Mobility Index

Cal State San Marcos ranks among the top 50 universities in the nation according to a new index that measures academic institutions on student outcomes and economic mobility rather than historical prestige and selectivity.  

CSUSM ranks No. 39 nationally in the Economic Mobility Index (EMI), which is described as trying to answer the question, “If the primary purpose of postsecondary education is supposed to be to catalyze an increase in economic mobility, which schools are succeeding in that goal?” 

The EMI is the product of Third Way, a Washington, D.C.-based public policy think tank founded in 2005 that develops and advocates for policies that it says represent “modern center-left ideas.” 

CSUSM stands first in the EMI among San Diego County schools and 14th in the 23-campus California State University system.  

The EMI ranking comes on the heels of CSUSM being slotted at 32nd nationally out of more than 1,500 schools in the Social Mobility Index by the online publication CollegeNET last fall. The university was included in the top 5% of that index for the seventh consecutive year. 

“Nationally, higher education is often called out for reinforcing inequality rather than closing socioeconomic gaps,” CSUSM President Ellen Neufeldt said. “However, like our consistently high standing in the Social Mobility Index, our ranking in this new EMI is illustrative of our institutional commitment to help all of our students reach their full potential and change the trajectories of their lives.” 

To assess the economic mobility that colleges and universities provide, Third Way examines which schools enroll the highest proportion of students from low and moderate backgrounds and give them a strong return on their educational investment.   

In determining the return on investment that the average low-income student gains from attending a school, Third Way uses its Price-to-Earnings Premium (PEP), which looks at the time it takes students to recoup their educational costs based on the earnings boost they derive from attending that school.  

Third Way then broadens its metric to consider the proportion of federal Pell Grant students whom a school enrolls. The EMI takes the results from a PEP analysis on the outcomes of low-income students at 1,320 institutions granting bachelor’s degrees and multiplies the comparative rank by the percentage of Pell Grant recipients that each school enrolls.  

The EMI serves as a counterbalance to traditional college rankings, like those produced by U.S. News and World Report, that perennially place Ivy League schools and other elite private institutions at the top.  

“While news outlets often focus on the most prestigious and selective institutions, these data show that their impact on increasing mobility is limited, and many other colleges serve exponentially more underserved students – and serve them quite well,” Michael Itzkowitz, Third Way senior fellow for higher education, writes in an article detailing the rankings.    

Since its founding in 1989, CSUSM has been dedicated to student success and social mobility. From first-year programs to learning communities, community-based learning opportunities, internships, undergraduate research and more, the university works to foster deep learning and academic success by engaging students in meaningful and innovative educational experiences.  

These practices are especially beneficial to underserved student groups. About half of CSUSM students are underrepresented minorities, and at least 52% of graduates are the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. One in nine students is a veteran, service member or military-affiliated dependent. CSUSM is also a major contributor of bachelor’s degree holders to the region’s workforce, with more than 80% of students remaining in the region following graduation.