U.S. News Highlights USM’s Social Mobility and Engineering in New Rankings

U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges for Social Mobility 2021.

US News and World Reports’ just-released college rankings highlight the University of Southern Maine’s place among the top public universities in the Northeast.

The university’s recognition — as an overall top public school, for social mobility and for its strong engineering program – highlight USM’s rising stature in Maine and throughout the country.

  • USM tied for 50th place among the top public regional universities in the northern US
  • USM tied for 80th place among regional universities in the northern US for social mobility
  • USM placed 123rd nationwide for best undergraduate engineering programs, where no engineering doctorate is offered

The magazine’s prestigious rankings are created from a wide range of statistics including academic reputation, peer surveys, retention rates, class sizes and alumni giving.

“Our staff and faculty are reaching new heights each year in attracting top academic talent, improving student retention, and growing the honors and career readiness programs — all while ensuring unmatched value,” said Jared Cash, Vice President for Enrollment Management & Marketing at USM. “It’s exciting to see these outcomes at USM recognized by established rankings and know they will help college-bound students with their decision making, especially during a unique year when traditional aspects of the college search process, like campus visits, may be limited.”

About half of USM’s roughly 8,000 students are the first in their families to seek higher education, making the university an engine of social mobility for Maine and the region.

A big part of USM’s social mobility success comes from the university’s commitment to real-world learning. Every undergraduate program has internships. Many are cultivated by the Career & Employment Hub, which helps students connect to their future by offering a variety of services from their first day on campus to years after they graduate. The Hub supports students through career exploration, self-assessments, resume and cover letter development, internship search, interviewing skills, and more.

“This recognition comes at a very opportune moment in the life of the University,” said USM Board of Visitors Chair Luc Nya ’96, ’99G, ’08G. “As a three-time graduate, I see USM as a major engine of social mobility in our community and across Maine, and this year’s ranking is a confirmation of that belief.”

The engineering department’s success builds on USM’s nationally accredited mechanical and electrical engineering programs. Both programs have close ties with industry in southern Maine and beyond.

Student debt is also a contributing factor in a university’s ability to help students realize upward social mobility. This past year marks five consecutive years of debt reduction for USM students. In 2020, the average USM undergraduate student graduated with $23,713 in debt, which is a reduction of nearly $3,000 from 2018 and a reduction of more than $4,600 since 2015. The average USM undergraduate student will graduate with about $5,500 less in debt, which is 18 percent below the national average.

Despite the challenge of COVID-19, the university celebrated a historic summer enrollment with over 3,625 students engaged online. And this fall, with instruction offered both online and in person. Overall enrollment trends are showing that families are seeking strong four-year public institutions that don’t require long distance travel to attend.