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February 2, 2022

In new economic index, UCR is No. 18 nationally

UCR is the lone University of California campus to rank on the inaugural Economic Mobility Index

Author: J.D. Warren
February 2, 2022

A new measure of higher education excellence called the Economic Mobility Index, or EMI, ranks UCR No. 18 nationally. The ranking is from a non-profit think tank named Third Way, and aims to measure the role universities play in catalyzing the economy.

In the ranking, Third Way acknowledges the move toward recognizing measures such as economic mobility by leading higher education rankings systems such as U.S. News & World Report. U.S. News, long the most-watched college ranking system, has named UCR for the third consecutive year as the country’s No. 1 university for social mobility.

The Economic Mobility Index, Third Way senior fellow Michael Itzkowitz wrote, is intended 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?”

To answer that question, the EMI examines which schools enroll the highest proportion of students from low and moderate income backgrounds, providing them the strongest return for their investment. Third Way created a Price-to-Earnings Premium, or PEP, metric to look at how long it takes students to recoup their educational costs.

Traditional rankings leaders such as Harvard and Stanford earned exceptional PEP scores. But less than 20% of students at those universities are low-income.

“The reach of these institutions to help low-income students obtain economic mobility is extremely limited—in large part because they admit such a small share of low-income students to begin with,” Third Way wrote.

And so, Third Way next factored the proportion of Pell Grant students an institution enrolls. After that, Harvard – No. 4 in PEP - drops to No. 847 in the overall EMI ranking. 

UC Riverside is No. 18 in the EMI; no other University of California undergraduate campus appears on the list, which includes the top 50 universities. Fifteen universities in the Cal State system make the list, including CSU Los Angeles, which ranked No. 1.

It’s been another heady rankings season for UC Riverside. In addition to the U.S. News accolade, UCR also cracked the top 50 public universities in the Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education poll. It was particularly notable given the weight the WSJ/THE ranking affords to colleges with spending power, such as Harvard, Stanford, and MIT. With the 2022 WSJ/THE report, UCR had climbed 184 positions in the overall rankings in the past five years.

Also this past fall, Washington Monthly magazine named UCR No. 1 in the nation for Pell Grant performance. UCR graduated the second-most Pell Grant students in the country, according to federal data from the most recent cohort considered. UCR was also named among the top 25 public universities by The Princeton Review.

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