NJCU ranks No. 10 nationally (No. 1 in N.J.) for social mobility

10th annual rankings by CollegeNet aim to assess factors such as affordability, graduation rates and alumni outcomes

New Jersey City University, long known in Hudson County as a center for upward economic mobility, now is getting recognized for those efforts on a national level.

NJCU was ranked No. 1 in the state of New Jersey and 10th in the U.S. in CollegeNet’s 2023 Social Mobility Index — a unique and innovative measure that aims to assess factors such as affordability, graduation rates and alumni outcomes.

The ranking also represents a steady and strong improvement in NJCU’s ranking on the national index: The school was No. 105 in 2021 and No. 44 in 2022.

NJCU interim President Andrés Acebo obviously was thrilled.

“We are grateful for this substantial recognition, which further demonstrates and affirms the power of NJCU’s distinct and differentiated mission and the indispensable role it serves to the extraordinary community we are privileged to serve,” he said.

“We are proudly linked and tethered to a mission — a mission of economic mobility, of upward social mobility, of taking a socioeconomically diverse population and historically underserved and marginalized community and empowering them. That is what NJCU does every day for our community — and has for nearly a century. There is no denying the power of higher education to change the trajectory of a family, particularly for first-generation students; my own life story is a testament to it.”

The Social Mobility Index aims to measure the extent to which a college or university educates more economically disadvantaged students — with family incomes below the national median — at lower tuition and graduates them into good-paying jobs. The development of the SMI has revolutionized the way success is viewed in higher education institutions.

CollegeNet’s SMI differs from most other rankings in that it focuses directly on the factors that enable economic mobility, rather than arbitrary or irrelevant criteria such as percentage of applicants denied. The institutions that educate more economically disadvantaged people and do so the best at lower tuition, so they graduate into good-paying jobs, will rank higher, according to the SMI.

Acebo said the ranking is reflective of the school’s longtime mission.

“I am pleased that these rankings demonstrate what we at NJCU have always believed — and what we have doubled down on in the last year — that higher education should be a transformative experience that empowers individuals to overcome barriers, systemic and personal, and realize their promise,” he said.

“This recognition is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our faculty, staff and students, and the significant efforts undertaken over the last year to know and intentionally honor who we are privileged to serve. That has been the truth behind our mission’s extraordinary resilience and it lies in the heart of the unprecedented reforms we have realized in the last year to drive student success and to truly meet our students, their families and our communities where they are.”

NJCU serves the most socioeconomically diverse student population in the state, with a reported median household annual income of the students standing at $42,200 — the lowest of New Jersey’s four-year public colleges by a considerable margin.

Fifty-four percent of the university’s students are first-generation college students. However, 10 years after graduation, students earn 22% more than the national average income.

Full rankings of CollegeNet’s 2023 SMI are available here.