Skip to main content

Ranked in the Top 10 for Social Mobility

UTEP Among Best Universities for Upward Mobility

The University of Texas at El Paso is one of the best institutions in the country for helping students realize the American Dream, as reported in multiple national media outlets.

The most recent example is a column in MarketWatch, which notes that UTEP is one of the 10 best U.S. colleges and universities for student upward mobility. The article is based on a study that lists UTEP among the most effective universities in helping graduates move from family incomes in the lowest 20% (less than $25,000 a year) to the top 20% (at least $110,000 a year).

 The study refers to the ability to foster this ascent in income as a university’s “mobility rate.” At UTEP, almost 25 percent of graduates from the poorest backgrounds reach the uppermost income quintile, giving UTEP a 6.8% mobility rate – higher than all but eight universities in America.

 “UTEP is a great education at a price families can afford,” UTEP President Heather Wilson said. “An education with us propels a family to the middle class and above.”

 UTEP has been lauded for its ability to help students navigate financial challenges. Earlier this year, the campus’ comprehensive array of funding sources in support of its students received a major enhancement with the introduction of the PayDirt Promise, which covers tuition and mandatory fees for students whose families make $40,000 per year or less.

In 2017, a study released by the Brookings Institution ranked UTEP No. 1 for performing well in both research and social mobility. The study examined the performance of 342 public universities along two value dimensions that are commonly used to justify public investments in them: research productivity and student social mobility.

Top Ten U.S. Colleges for Upward Mobility

College or University Location Undergrad Enrollment Bottom 20% - Top 20%
Mobility Rate
California State University Los Angeles, CA 24,002 9.9%
Pace University New York, NY 8,960 8.4%
State University of New York at Stony Brook Long Island, NY 17,522 8.4%
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley* Rio Grande Valley, TX 24,578 7.6%
City University of New York** New York, NY 244,951 7.2%
Glendale Community College Glendale, CA 18,176 7.1%
South Texas College McAllen, TX 31,321 6.9%
Cal State Polytechnic Pomona, CA 26,443 6.8%
UTEP El Paso, TX 25,151 6.8%
St. John's University Queens, NY 16,766 6.8%

*University of Texas--Pan American and UT at Brownsville merged into UTRGV.
**Includes full- & part-time undergraduate students at CUNY 4-year and 2-year colleges
Sources:; Colleges; U.S. News & World Report College Rankings

Information is taken from MarketWatch article

Relevant Media Mentions

Challenging U.S. Research Universities and Funders to Increase Diversity

Issues in Science and Technology, Winter 2019

The University of Texas at El Paso is the top institution in the continental United States for producing Hispanic bachelor’s graduates who continue on to earn doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, according to an article written by Freeman A. Hrabowski III, Ph.D., president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), and Peter H. Henderson, Ph.D., senior advisor to the UMBC president, published in Issues in Science and Technology.

The article analyzes the available data from the National Science Foundation (NSF) on the baccalaureate origins of the country’s Hispanic and African-American doctorate recipients. Their findings indicate that UTEP is a national leader in advancing academic diversity to develop and sustain a diverse STEM workforce. UTEP ranks No. 3 in producing students with bachelor’s degrees who subsequently earn doctorates. The University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez and the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras rank Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, making UTEP the top university in the contiguous states.

Read the full story

Far From Home: Demystifying the College Experience

Texas Public Radio, December 2018

The University of Texas at El Paso is “one of the gold standards” for how best to serve first-generation, Hispanic college students, according to a Texas Public Radio story by reporter Bekah McNeel. The Texas Public Radio reporter outlined how selective schools such as Princeton University are taking note of UTEP’s approach and conducting their own outreach to help first-generation students succeed.

Read/listen to the full story

In the Age of Inequality, Goldman’s CEO Offers an Unexpected Lesson

Washington Post, July 2018

A 2017 study suggests it is more critical to admit, and support, greater numbers of low-income students at quality public universities than to enroll low-income students at elite private colleges. The study identified several universities — including The University of Texas at El Paso — that accept large numbers of low-income students and generate “very good outcomes.” According to the Washington Post article, “Such colleges could provide a ‘scalable model for increasing upward mobility’ — and at an instructional cost of $8,000 per student, compared with $54,000 at elite private colleges.”

Read the full story

America’s Best Bang for the Buck Colleges

Washington Monthly, September 2017

“Economists Raj Chetty, John Friedman and Nathaniel Hendren received national headlines when their Equality of Opportunity Project released college mobility report cards focused on social mobility. These report cards charted the percentage of students from lower-income families who attended a particular college and then moved up the income distribution by the time they reached their early thirties. The top ten colleges for moving students from the bottom to the top income quintile were institutions such as California State University campuses, the City University of New York, and The University of Texas at El Paso. Meanwhile, elite institutions often scored far lower because so few low-income students were actually admitted.”

Read the full story

Ladders, Labs or Laggards? Which Public Universities Contribute Most

Brookings Institution, July 2017

According to a paper written by economic expert Richard V. Reeves and his research assistant, Dimitrios Halikias, universities act as ladders for social mobility, which makes for a more dynamic and fairer society. The pair’s research, which utilized tax data from the Equality of Opportunity Project at Stanford University to gauge mobility and an independent ranking from the Carnegie Foundation to assess research activity, found that UTEP topped the list of schools that manage to simultaneously produce important research while extending social opportunity to students from underprivileged backgrounds.

Read the full story

America’s Great Working-Class Colleges

New York Times, January 2017

“College graduates have to come from somewhere, of course, and most of them are coming from campuses that look a lot less like Harvard or the University of Michigan than like City College or the University of Texas at El Paso. On these more typical campuses, students often work while they’re going to college. Some are military veterans, others learned English as a second language and others are in their mid-20s or 30s.

‘There are a lot of people who would not go to college at all, and would not get an education at all, if they had to go through some selective criteria,’ said Erik Pavia, a 2010 graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso, known as UTEP. ‘UTEP opens the doors to people from all walks of life.’”

Read the full story

Related Stories