Story Student Success

CSU Campuses Among Nation’s Best for Social Mobility

Elizabeth Chapin



​​​​California State University campuses are ranked among the top in the U.S. based on the upward mobility of their students, according to a new study that examines the "mobility rate" of every college in America.

Two CSU campuses—Cal State L.A. and Cal Poly Pomona—are included in the Equality of Opportunity Project's list of top 10 colleges that channel students from low- or middle-income families to the top 20 percent of American wage earners.

The study defines a college's upward mobility rate as the fraction of its students who come from families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution and end up in the top fifth. It takes into account both the number of low-income students attending a school and the "success" rate at which that cohort of students later moves into the top 20 percent of wage earners.

Cal State L.A. is ranked number one with a mobility rate of 9.9 percent. Cal Poly Pomona is number nine on the list with a rate of 6.8 percent.

Four CSUs—Bakersfield, Pomona, San José and Long Beach—are also included in the study's list of top 10 colleges ranked by percent of ​students from the bottom fifth of the income distribution who end up in the top three-fifths.

The New York Times recently published an article on the study, which includes an interactive tool showing where each American college stands in terms of parental incomes of its enrollees and the earnings outcomes of its students.

The study's authors included researchers from UC Berkeley, Stanford and Brown University. The research is based on millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records from the federal government from 1999 to 2013.​

CSU campuses are frequently recognized as engines of social mobility due to their success in educating diverse students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. For example, Washington Monthly and CollegeNet recently highlighted a number of CSUs for doing the best job of helping students from low-income families attain degrees at affordable prices.