California State University campuses rank among the nation’s best universities when it comes to serving the public good and providing students with opportunities to increase social mobility, according to rankings released by Washington Monthly August 28.

The publication rated universities across the country based on their contribution to the public good in criteria such as recruiting and graduating low-income students, producing cutting-edge research and encouraging students to participate in community service.

Washington Monthly recognized all 23 CSU campuses—with Stanislaus, San Bernardino, Bakersfield, Chico, Los Angeles, Dominguez Hills, Northridge, San Luis Obispo, Humboldt and Sacramento placing in the top 25 among master’s institutions. Cal Maritime also ranked fifth nationally among bachelor’s universities.

Fresno, Fullerton, San Diego and San Francisco were included in the “National University” category as they are considered doctoral institutions by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Washington Monthly placed Fresno State in the top 20 in this category, alongside universities such as Princeton, Yale, Columbia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Cal State (Fresno) has a stellar graduation rate relative to other colleges with a similar admissions profile, and its net price of attendance—what students pay after scholarships are deducted from tuition—is among the very lowest nationwide,” said Kevin Carey, director of the Education Policy Program at New America Foundation and guest editor of Washington Monthly's 2017 College Guide issue.

Washington Monthly’s rankings focus on social mobility and service—a distinction that sets them apart from most other college rankings, which tend to favor private universities. By contrast, 11 of the top 20 Washington Monthly colleges are publicly supported.

“Instead of rewarding colleges for the number of applications they reject, we give them credit for enrolling unusually large numbers of low-income and first-generation students,” Carey said. “Instead of assuming that the most expensive schools are also the best, we recognize universities that produce research, train the next generation of scientists and PhDs, and instill their graduates with an ethos of public service.”

Washington Monthly also issued “Best Bang for the Buck” rankings, sorted by region, which included all 23 of the CSU’s campuses. Stanislaus, Maritime, Bakersfield, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Fresno, Sacramento, Chico, Long Beach and Northridge placed among the top 25 in the West.

The “Best Bang for the Buck” rankings are based on net price, graduation rates and whether students go on to earn at least enough to pay off their loans.

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. A large number of CSU students come from families in the bottom of the strata related to income distribution but end up at the top after graduating. The Equality of Opportunity Project 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.