Portland, Or., February 8, 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 US colleges and universities according to how effectively they enroll students from low-income backgrounds and graduate them into promising careers, today announced that Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina has been selected as the third 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.
A 125-year-old historically Black public research university with nearly 5,000 undergraduate students, Winston-Salem State has been ranked among the top 20 schools on CollegeNET's Social Mobility Index (SMI) for three consecutive years (2014-2016).
"Most of the higher education rankings try to help students choose a college or university," says Jim Wolfston, CEO of CollegeNET. "The SMI, on the other hand, tries to help policymakers see which colleges and universities are addressing the national problem of economic mobility. Administrators in higher education can be more effective in strengthening US economic mobility and restoring the promise of the American Dream in the 21st century if they can identify and learn from committed colleges and universities like Winston-Salem State that are already skilled at doing this."
Establishing a Strong Culture of Engagement
Winston-Salem State was selected as CollegeNET's third Social Mobility Innovator for 2017 because it has established a strong culture of engagement for students. In addition to a substantive one-week orientation for first-year students, which includes enriched mentoring, advising and social and cultural activities, the university requires freshmen and sophomores to live on campus. Winston-Salem State also creates a campus-wide learning environment. In the heart of campus is a state-of-the-art Student Success Center, which offers advising, tutoring and career placement under one roof.
"Our educational experience is based on student engagement," says Elwood L. Robinson, Chancellor at Winston-Salem State, "and our school motto is ‘Enter to Learn. Depart to Serve.' That's our guiding principle, and it's deeply engrained in all that we do. We have to ensure that our students get all the skills required for the 21st century workplace."
Another key part of Winston-Salem State's approach to student engagement revolves around providing students the financial support to stay on track and graduate. The school has found that unforeseen personal and financial circumstances can often hinder students' ability to complete their education. That's why Robinson and his team have set up gap-funding scholarships, which provide high-achieving under-resourced students with the means to complete their degree. The scholarships range from $1,000 to $1,500.
"I come from a rural small town and a family that never had a whole lot, so I understand this situation quite well," explains Robinson. "But I also know that equity means making sure that all students get the opportunity to be successful, regardless of their families' income. As an educator, I believe you have to do everything possible to help students leave their mark in the world."
Winston-Salem State's track record in this area is impressive. It currently ranks first among all 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system with 79 percent of its students employed six months after graduation.
Attacking Higher Education's Harmful "Tri-Imperfecta"
"It's inspiring that Winston-Salem State is providing educational opportunity to promising students regardless of their economic background," says CollegeNET's Wolfston. "Winston-Salem State's civic contribution is key given that higher education's role in advancing economic mobility and the American Dream is rapidly deteriorating. Indeed, our nation 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. Winston-Salem State's innovation provides a strong example for how we can reverse these trends."
Mona Zahir, a senior at Winston-Salem State who is a Political Science major and the Student Government Association president, embodies this view. Says Zahir, whose parents moved to the US from Africa: "I'm just a first-generation American who comes from little money but came to a university on the work ethic of wanting to make something of myself for my parents' sacrifices. Now, I literally feel like I can be anything or do anything because of [Winston-Salem State]."
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.