The school year started on a high note when Washington Monthly magazine released its 2014 rankings and The University of Texas at El Paso was once again listed among the top 10 universities in the country.
UTEP stayed in the Top 10 for a second year, placing it in the company of universities such as Stanford; The University of California, Berkeley; Texas A&M; the University of Washington – Seattle; and Harvard. A second Top 10 ranking validated UTEP’s continued success in blazing a unique trail in higher education by serving a 21st century student demographic.
Most impressively, for a third consecutive year, UTEP was ranked #1 among all U.S. universities in Washington Monthly’s social mobility category, which seeks to measure universities’ success in outperforming predictions for the graduation of first-generation and low-income students.
Washington Monthly rates schools based on their contribution to the public in three broad categories: social mobility, research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and doctoral graduates) and service (encouraging students to give something back to their region and nation).
Each of these categories holds equal weight in the ranking system. For the first time since Washington Monthly began collecting data for its rankings, the magazine used a three-year average rather than data from the previous year. The decision was made to average the data in order to protect smaller schools from having wild swings in rankings from year-to-year.
UTEP President Diana Natalicio revealed the rankings to the campus Tuesday, Aug. 26, during an event at Union Plaza. Surrounded by students wearing orange and shaking pom-poms, President Natalicio greeted the crowd.
“I can’t think of a more exciting way to begin an academic year than to have an announcement that UTEP, again, is ranked among the Top 10 universities in the United States,” she said.
“It is so exciting to think about the fact that among all the universities – 3,700 of them – around the country, that UTEP is in the top 10,” she continued. “It doesn’t get much better than that. We did that, all of us here, by being true to our mission, doing everything that we knew was right to encourage and foster opportunities and then to provide the greatest excellence that we could possibly offer our students, so that when they graduate they can compete with anybody, from anywhere, anytime. Being ranked in the Top 10 with all of these other more recognized universities, historically, is going to mean that UTEP diplomas go up in value, way up in value. So all of these beautiful UTEP students are going to have degrees that are going to allow them to be highly competitive in the 21st century global economy.”
President Natalicio went on to explain the importance of the Washington Monthly rankings.
“Washington Monthly decided that U.S. News and World Report rankings didn’t cut it, didn’t capture what’s important about higher education in the United States today, and so they developed their own rankings and when they did that, UTEP zoomed to the top,” she said. “And there we are, in the Top 10.”
The news that UTEP was again ranked #1 in the social mobility category was revealed as a banner was unveiled behind the President and confetti fluttered in the wind and twirled around the delighted spectators.
President Natalicio went on to describe the importance and significance of the social mobility category.
“What social mobility really means is that we punch above our weight, that we outperform all the predictions about what we ought to be able to accomplish on this campus,” she said. “People set often very low expectations and we’ve said, ‘No. We’re not willing to do that. We’re going to set real high expectations and then we’ll work as hard as it takes to achieve them.’ And that’s what we’ve done here.”
She went on to recognize the real reason behind why UTEP remained in the Top 10 – the students.
“We support and enrich the educational experiences that (our students) have, but if they don’t deliver, if they’re not the ones who achieve, we don’t succeed. Our success is their success.”
One of those students at the event was Jennifer Heredia, a senior criminal justice major at UTEP.
“I think it’s great that UTEP is ranked #1 in social mobility,” Heredia said. “It will bring more people in to El Paso and UTEP.”
Part of UTEP’s high ranking in social mobility comes from the fact that more than 60 percent of UTEP graduates are the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree, and one-third report a family income of $20,000 or less. UTEP’s success in recruiting, retaining and graduating these students demonstrates that talent crosses gender, ethnic and socioeconomic boundaries, and that an investment in a UTEP degree yields high returns.
“All of us at UTEP should be very proud of our recent Top 10 ranking in Washington Monthly,” said Gary Edens, Ed.D., vice president for student affairs. “It is extremely rewarding to see that others are validating the hard work done daily on our campus by so many talented faculty and staff. This type of national exposure increases the value of a UTEP degree as more and more individuals across the nation are informed about the high quality education and outstanding research opportunities that are available to UTEP students.”
UTEP offers 70 bachelor’s, 76 master’s and 20 doctoral degree programs and boasts the lowest out-of-pocket cost among all research universities in the U.S. UTEP not only redefines public higher education regionally and throughout Texas; with these top rankings, UTEP can confidently say its impact is strongly validated across the nation.
Published 8/29/14 at http://news.utep.edu/?p=26333
Rachel Anna Neff, Ph.D., is a writer with the Office of University Communications.