The University of La Verne’s work with helping the economically disadvantaged, and especially, first generation students was recognized in U.S. News and World Report’s 2020 Best Colleges Rankings, in which the University ranked fourth overall in social mobility.
The University is the top performing private university, with the top three placements being public schools.
School in the social mobility category are ranked by average six-year graduation rate, average first-year retention rate, Pell Grant graduation rate and Pell Grant graduation rate performance. The category also examines universities’ success in supporting students who have annual family incomes that are typically less than $50,000.
President Devorah Lieberman said that having a social mobility ranking better reflects universities, like La Verne, that are mission-driven because older rankings did not recognize the University’s commitment to students.
“This is external validation that the University is seeking to provide in education that is helping them with social mobility, and they have selected a university focused on serving, not just recruiting but retaining and that makes me very proud,” Lieberman said.
She said that being ranked so high gives students validation in their choice to come to La Verne.
“It gives our students the pride our students deserve to have in attending the University, because for me every student should feel pride they chose the University and La Verne chose them,” Lieberman said.
Daniel Loera, director of multicultural affairs, said that while no one person at the University can take credit for the ranking, it is a testament that the University’s values of lifelong learning, ethical reasoning, diversity and inclusivity and civic and community engagement are constantly at play.
“It really speaks to the population we serve and how we serve, and I think historically the University of La Verne, founded on the pillars that it was, was really about giving opportunity for many who may not otherwise have an opportunity,” he said.
Loera said that through connecting, students realize that they belong and can succeed.
“As they begin to accept that as a reality for themselves, then they realize that they can also blossom and be creative into who they become,” Loera said.
Loera said there are a lot of opportunities for growth, learning and leadership development, and these opportunities are important for a student’s success.
“These engaging experiences primarily and fundamentally affirm who they are,” Loera said. “What I think about success or a successful academic journey for somebody, is that they leave this place knowing who they are and what they are capable of.”
Loera said the University offers first generation students many programs like the first generation peer mentoring program and the summer bridge program. The latter is a two-week program offered through the Office of First Generation and Peer Mentoring to incoming students, said Aracely Torres, director of first generation and peer mentoring programs.
During the program, incoming students take two classes – math and writing – and work closely with their professors to get to know other faculty and resources available on campus.
Torres said programs like the summer bridge program helped the University earn the high ranking in social mobility.
“Validation theory talks about the importance of just being validated for your experiences, and I believe that La Verne does that well,” Torres said.
“We do acknowledge our students, we validate their experience and that’s really important to our success.”
Torres said social mobility is all about resilience. She said she believes acknowledging a student’s success improves their resilience, which allows the student to succeed after graduation.
“That’s what our students have – our La Verne students are resilient,” Torres said.
David Gonzalez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.