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Mobilizing into Nation’s No. 1

EDUCATION: CSU San Marcos Advances Social Mobility

California State University San Marcos has reached No. 1 status, named recently by online publication CollegeNET as the nation’s best college in terms of advancing social mobility.

CollegeNET, a provider of web-based on-demand technologies for higher education, recently released its ninth annual rankings list, which champions schools that enroll students from low-income backgrounds and graduate them into good paying jobs, and Cal State San Marcos topped the list of more than 1,400 national colleges and universities.

During her annual Report to the Community address in September, CSUSM President Ellen Neufeldt mentioned her hope that the school would become a national leader in social mobility − and it has.

Ellen Neufeldt
President
California State University San Marcos

“CSUSM’s stellar performance on the Social Mobility Index is a testament to both the academic and co-curricular commitment of our university and the incredible dedication of our faculty, staff and community partners,” Neufeldt said. “While this ranking is an important acknowledgement that we are headed in the right direction, we are excited to continue to engage in this important work so that every student who dreams of a college degree is able to graduate, ready to embark on exciting careers or other exciting life opportunities.”

CSUSM had been included in the top 5% of the index for each of the previous seven years, but the current ranking is the first time that the university topped the list. Seven other California State University schools ranked in the top 20.

San Diego State University ranked No. 551, UCSD No. 824, PLNU No. 1,088 and USD No. 1,336.

CollegeNET’s SMI ratings rank four-year U.S. colleges and universities according to how they hold the line on tuition, enroll students from low-income backgrounds, graduate those students into good jobs and apply their promotional messaging to solve the nation’s social mobility challenges.

The SMI is calculated using a formula designed to reflect: access, outcome and institutional capability. CollegeNET collects data from third-party sources including the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

CollegeNET’s SMI focuses directly on the factors that enable economic mobility and its rankings offer a contrast to annual SMI rankings by U.S. News & World Report, which the online publication says are grounded more in institutional prestige and wealth.

The index traditionally computes from five variables: published tuition, percentage of students whose families have incomes below $48,000 (slightly below the U.S. median), graduation rate, median salary about five years after graduation and endowment size.

Solving Economic Divergence Problem

Of its SMI rankings, the CollegeNET website says, “Despite its broad national importance, the good we seek to measure is more narrow: the extent to which colleges and universities contribute to solving the problem of economic divergence in our country.”

Neufeldt said she is “thrilled” that the 2022 Social Mobility Index recognizes the critical work CSUSM is doing in this endeavor.

“We’re building upon CSUSM’s reputation as an escalator of social mobility,” she said. “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.”

CSUSM has been dedicated to student success and social mobility since its founding in 1989.

From first-year programs to learning communities, community-based learning opportunities to internships, undergraduate research and more, the university works to foster deep learning and academic success by engaging students in meaningful and innovative educational experiences – all especially beneficial to underserved student groups.

CSUSM is a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution with a diverse student population. 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.

Carl Kemnitz
Provost and VP of Academic Affairs
California State University San Marcos Provost

“The success of our students and their social mobility is the very core of our mission,” said Carl Kemnitz, CSUSM provost and vice president of academic affairs. “When families send their children to college, the goal is often upward mobility. Taking that a step further, while an important part of our goal is career readiness, for us at CSUSM, in addition, it’s about what our students do upon graduation. How they lead, give back, innovate and contribute to solving the most critical issues of our time.”

CSUSM is also a major contributor of bachelor’s degree holders to the region’s workforce, with about 80% of students remaining in the region following graduation.

Since Neufeldt became president in 2019, social mobility has become even more woven into CSUSM’s mission. It is a pillar of a five-year strategic plan unveiled last spring by the university unveiled last spring: “The Power of CSUSM,” and has taken strides toward the objectives outlined in it.

In May, the university received a $1 million gift from longtime donors Steve and Laura Wagner to create a fund devoted to social mobility; and hosted a two-day National Social Mobility Symposium in June.

“I look forward to continuing our efforts to be a national model in the area of student success and social mobility – building on the important work already in place and taking it to new heights through innovation, collaboration and inclusion,” Neufeldt said.

California State University San Marcos

FOUNDED: 1989
PRESIDENT: Ellen J. Neufeldt
HEADQUARTERS: San Marcos
BUSINESS: Public university
BUDGET: $225M
EMPLOYEES: 2,832
WEBSITE: csusm.edu
CONTACT: 760-750-4000
NOTABLE: Campus enrollment is just over 13,000 each semester. CSUSM alumni include Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 and San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond.

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