Portland, Or., April 26, 2017
CollegeNET, Inc., a leading provider of web-based on-demand technologies for higher education and the creator of the Social Mobility Index (SMI), a data-driven system that ranks 4-year U.S. colleges and universities according to how effectively they enroll students from low-income backgrounds and graduate them into promising careers, today announced that the University of California, Santa Cruz has been selected as the eighth of 10 Social Mobility Innovators for 2017.
The goal of the SMI -- now in its third year -- is to help redirect the attribution of "prestige" in our higher education system toward colleges and universities that are advancing economic opportunity, the most pressing issue of our time.
With 67 percent of its more than 15,000 undergraduates identified as low-income students, first-generation college students or under-represented minorities (or a combination of these), UC Santa Cruz has ranked among the top 20 schools on CollegeNET's Social Mobility Index (SMI) for two consecutive years (2015-2016).
"Most higher education rankings approach the problem of comparing colleges and universities as steering consumers toward a brand or purchase," says Jim Wolfston, CEO of CollegeNET. "The SMI, on the other hand, helps policymakers, students and their families see which colleges and universities are addressing the national problem of economic mobility. Administrators in higher education will be more effective in strengthening U.S. economic mobility and restoring the promise of the American Dream if they can identify and learn from colleges and universities like UC Santa Cruz that are already skilled at doing this."
Educational Equity as a Central Objective
UC Santa Cruz was selected as a CollegeNET Social Mobility Innovator for 2017 because of its continuing commitment to a "Whole Student" philosophy.
"Our central objective is educational equity," says Dr. Jaye Padgett, Interim Vice Provost for Student Success and a Professor in the Linguistics Department at UC Santa Cruz. "At a bare minimum, we want to close gaps in measures like graduation rates and time-to-degree. But we really focus on the whole student. And we look at larger forces, like the family challenges or financial hardships that our students face, or non-cognitive factors, such as whether they have a sense of belonging on campus. These things definitely matter when you're talking about engagement, retention and student success."
UC Santa Cruz has implemented and institutionalized a number of key programs that help reinforce this "Whole Student" philosophy.
All undergraduate students are affiliated with one of 10 residential colleges on campus, for example. Each residential college provides academic programming and support, offers a core course that all of its students take, organizes student activities and sponsors events that enhance the intellectual and social life of the campus in addition to housing students in small-scale residential communities.
"These are living-learning communities that bring cohorts together," says Padgett. "The students in each residential college take courses together and share a host of experiences, which helps generate a powerful sense of belonging for everyone involved."
UC Santa Cruz also has a number of academic support programs that are dedicated to increasing the diversity of students earning bachelor's degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A designated Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), with Latinos and Latinas now comprising 30 percent of its undergraduate student population, the school has recently received over $11 million in government grants to support this initiative.
The university's focus on student success begins even before the first day of class, with a series of optional pre-matriculation preparation and enrichment programs during summer.
Reversing Higher Education's Harmful "Tri-Imperfecta"
"UC Santa Cruz is providing real educational opportunity to promising students regardless of their economic background," adds CollegeNET's Wolfston. "Its civic contribution is key given that economic mobility and the American Dream are rapidly deteriorating. Indeed, higher education is now caught in a damaging 'tri-imperfecta.' Tuitions are increasing, economic inclusion is declining on campuses and Pell Grants -- intended for disadvantaged students with financial need -- are being awarded more generously to richer families. UC Santa Cruz's focus and innovation provide an example of how we can reverse these trends."
See the complete SMI rankings.
About CollegeNET, Inc.
CollegeNET, Inc. builds on-demand SaaS technologies that help institutions improve operational efficiency, enhance communication with constituents, and save money. The company's systems are used by 1,300 institutions worldwide for event and academic scheduling, recruitment and admissions management, web-based tuition processing, instructor and course evaluation, and web-based career services for students. Additionally, the company operates CollegeNET.com, a social network through which students create topics, write about them, and vote to determine who will win scholarships. CollegeNET.com has awarded more than $2 million in scholarships to date. The company is headquartered in Portland, Oregon.