Balancing the social mobility index and reputation rankings

Autar Kaw
December 19, 2022

Social mobility is becoming ever so popular a criterion to evaluate university education.  However, we all know that reputation of university matters as well because it attracts high-caliber students, faculty, and staff, and hence presumably, the quality of education and opportunity of high impact practices, such as research experiences, internships, cooperative education, and capstone courses.

I wanted to see how well my university – the University of South Florida (USF), balances the two issues of social mobility and reputation.  USF is a Carnegie R1 institution, meaning that it is categorized as a university with “very high research activity”.  There are 146 R1 universities, amongst which 106 (actually, there are 107 but one of them Graduate Center, CUNY only admits graduate students) are public.

This blog is limited to the Carnegie R1 public universities.  I gave the same weight to the two rankings US News and World Report ranking and the Economic Mobility Index ranking .   The US News and World Report ranking  mostly use reputation in its calculations, and other factors include graduation and retention rates, selectivity of the incoming class, alumni giving rate, etc., which are substantially influenced by the wealth and income of the student’s family. The Economic Mobility Index ranking measures social mobility via out-of-pocket expenses, salary boost due to college degree, and time after graduation to recoup the money spent to go to college.

The weighted ranking is not hard science, but it gives us a glimpse of where we stand.  We at the University of South Florida are No. 17 out of 106 public Carnegie Research 1 universities.  Seven of the top 10 universities belong to the University of California system, while Florida is not far behind, holding the spots at 11, 13, 17, 22, and 25 in this combined ranking system.

University of California, Irvine 1
University of California, San Diego 2
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 3
University of California, Davis 4
University of California, Los Angeles 5
University of California, Santa Barbara 6
University of Texas at Austin 7
Rutgers University–New Brunswick 8
University of California, Berkeley 9
University of California, Riverside 10
University of Florida 11
University of Illinois Chicago 12
Florida State University 13
Stony Brook University 14
New Jersey Institute of Technology 15
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 16
University of South Florida 17
University of California, Santa Cruz 18
University at Buffalo 19
University of Washington 20
University of Connecticut 21
Florida International University 22
Arizona State University Campus Immersion 23
Binghamton University 24
University of Central Florida 25
Ohio State University 26
University of Georgia 27
University of Arizona 28
University of Michigan 29
University of Houston 30
Texas A&M University 31
Michigan State University 32
Georgia State University 33
University at Albany, SUNY 34
University of Colorado Denver 35
Wayne State University 36
University of Texas at Dallas 37
University of Maryland, Baltimore County 38
Temple University 39
George Mason University 40
North Carolina State University 41
University of Utah 42
University of Tennessee 43
University of Maryland, College Park 44
University of Minnesota 45
Indiana University Bloomington 46
University of Virginia 47
University of Alabama at Birmingham 48
University of Wisconsin–Madison 49
University of Iowa 50
University of Texas at El Paso 51
University of Massachusetts Amherst 52
Purdue University 53
University of Oregon 54
Georgia Institute of Technology 55
University of Texas at San Antonio 56
University of Pittsburgh 57
Washington State University 58
Virginia Tech 59
University of North Texas 60
Ohio University 61
University of Nevada, Las Vegas 62
University of Memphis 63
Utah State University 64
University of Hawaii at Manoa 65
Oklahoma State University–Stillwater 66
Pennsylvania State University 67
University of Texas at Arlington 68
University of Kansas 69
University of Kentucky 70
University of Oklahoma 71
University of Missouri 72
University of South Carolina 73
Clemson University 74
Oregon State University 75
University of Louisville 76
Virginia Commonwealth University 77
Old Dominion University 78
Texas Tech University 79
University of Mississippi 80
Iowa State University 81
Colorado School of Mines 82
University of Southern Mississippi 83
University of New Mexico 84
Louisiana State University 85
University of Delaware 86
University of Colorado Boulder 87
University of New Hampshire 88
West Virginia University 89
University of Cincinnati 90
University of Nevada, Reno 91
Auburn University 92
Mississippi State University 93
Colorado State University 94
University of Maine 95
University of Louisiana at Lafayette 96
University of Nebraska–Lincoln 97
University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee 98
Kansas State University 99
University of Arkansas 100
University of Alabama 101
Kent State University 102
University of Alabama in Huntsville 103
University of Montana 104
Montana State University 105
North Dakota State University 106

Autar Kaw is a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of South Florida. He is a recipient of the 2012 U.S. Professor of the Year Award (doctoral and research universities) from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching. His primary scholarly interests are engineering education research, adaptive, blended, and flipped learning, open courseware development, composite materials mechanics, and higher education’s state and future. He has written more than 150 refereed technical papers, and his opinion editorials have appeared in the Tampa Bay Times, the Tampa Tribune, and the Chronicle Vitae.