By Joe Garvey

Old Dominion University has once again been recognized as one of the top institutions in the United States for advancing the social mobility of its students.

The University placed among the top 10% of institutions in the nation and No. 1 in Virginia in CollegeNET, Inc.'s eighth annual Social Mobility Index (SMI) rankings.

ODU was listed among "noteworthy schools gaining ground in their social mobility efforts despite the lingering COVID-19 pandemic."

This is the third year in a row that CollegeNET ranked ODU among the top 10% nationally.

"We are very pleased to receive this recognition from CollegeNET once again," said Austin Agho, ODU's provost and vice president for academic affairs. "It reinforces that our efforts regarding the social mobility of our students are making a significant impact in spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic."

A recent report from the U.S Department of Education noted those challenges.

"The educational gaps that existed before the pandemic - in access, opportunities, achievement, and outcomes - are widening," the report said. "And we can see already that many of these impacts are falling disproportionately on students who went into the pandemic with the greatest educational needs and fewest opportunities - many of them from historically marginalized and underserved groups."

The SMI benchmarks four-year U.S. colleges and universities according to how effectively they enroll students from low-income backgrounds and graduate them into good-paying jobs, according to CollegeNET.

ODU ranked No. 148 nationally out of 1,549 four-year institutions CollegeNET assessed. Among Virginia schools on the list were:

  • George Mason (No. 157)
  • Radford (No. 172)
  • Norfolk State (No. 221)
  • Virginia Commonwealth (No. 616)
  • Virginia Tech (No. 740)
  • University of Virginia (No. 1,242)
  • William & Mary (No. 1,274)
  • University of Richmond (No. 1,368)

ODU has long made social mobility a priority. Roughly half of Old Dominion's incoming freshmen are the first in their families to attend college. ODU has been named a "top performer" in social mobility by U.S. News & World Report and was rated fourth in the nation in reducing inequalities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. In June, it co-hosted the fourth annual National Social Mobility Symposium.

The University's Center for Social Mobility, which launched in 2018, is at the forefront of higher education social mobility issues and focuses on approaches institutions can take to support students and promote social mobility. It is one of the only social mobility centers in the country housed at an institution that serves a large population of low-income and underrepresented students.

"At ODU, we work hard to ensure that every student has the resources to succeed," said Don Stansberry, vice president of student engagement and enrollment services. "Social mobility is truly an integral part of our DNA."

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