Nov. 22, 2021 — CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) has ranked 15th out of the 1,549 four-year institutions listed in the just-released 2021 Social Mobility Index (SMI). 

That’s up five rungs from the 2020 SMI, when CSUCI held the rank of No. 20 in the nation —still in the top 20 U.S. colleges and universities according to how effectively they enroll students from low-income backgrounds and enable them to graduate into well-paying jobs. 

The eighth annual 2021 SMI was released while COVID-19 continues to disproportionately impact low-income students, forcing many to abandon, delay, or alter their pursuit of a college degree and the potential that degree provides for social mobility.  

CSUCI Interim President Richard Yao, Ph.D. is well aware of the additional pressure placed on all students by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly those historically underserved in higher education, so the SMI ratings came as welcome news. 

“To hear that CSUCI has been rising steadily in the rankings in terms of social mobility is gratifying, but we’re especially pleased to hear that our students are continuing to succeed during a persisting pandemic,” said CSUCI Interim President Richard Yao, Ph.D., “In spite of the constant adjustments we had to make as a campus, this tells us that we never lost sight of our mission to ensure an affordable, quality college experience for students who would graduate to enjoy better career opportunities and a higher standard of living for themselves and, often, their families. We are also taking steps to further assess our post-graduate outcomes on varying levels to build on this solid foundation.” 

As a recent report from the U.S. Department of Education noted, “The educational gaps that existed before the pandemic — in access, opportunities, achievement, and outcomes — are widening. And we can see already that many of these impacts are falling disproportionately on students who went into the pandemic with the greatest educational needs and fewest opportunities — many of them from historically marginalized and underserved groups.”  

The SMI remains an important guidepost for policymakers even in the best of times, according to CollegeNET President Jim Wolfston, because it’s a step away from the traditional criteria used for college rankings. 

“Unlike other college rankings that celebrate wealth and its proxies, the SMI helps families and policymakers determine which colleges are addressing the national problem of economic mobility,” said CollegeNET President Jim Wolfston, “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.” 

Among developed nations, the U.S. is actually the least economically mobile, Wolfston said, which is why he believes it’s irresponsible to say an institution is “better” because it has a considerable endowment or because it admits students with higher SAT/ACT scores, which are often tightly correlated to higher family incomes. 

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