CollegeNET Publishes New e-Book on Student Success and Social Mobility in Higher Education

  • Student Success Professionals at Prominent U.S. Universities Discuss Cutting-Edge Programs to Support Under-Served Students’ Academic, Personal and Financial Needs
  • e-Book Contributors Challenge Conventional Notions about University “Prestige” as they Shift their Campuses toward Greater Economic Inclusion and Address the Nation's Problem of Social Mobility

PORTLAND, Ore.--()--CollegeNET, Inc., a leading provider of web-based on-demand technologies for higher education and the developer of the Social Mobility Index (SMI), today announced the publication of a new e-book, “Social Mobility through Higher Education --Best Practices for Student Success.”

The e-book offers best practices from student success professionals who are investing in cutting-edge programs that support under-served and under-represented students’ academic, personal and financial needs. In the process, the e-book contributors are challenging outmoded notions about university “prestige” as they lead their campuses toward greater economic inclusion, thus strengthening higher education's role as the most important rung on the ladder of economic mobility.

Indeed, increasing student success and social mobility is one of the central issues that colleges and universities face today. A recent study by Fabian Pfeffer of the University of Michigan showed that while the number of poor students getting into college increased over a 10-year period, the percentage graduating remained almost flat at around 11.5 percent. Among the wealthiest students, however, the rate of graduation increased, from 40 percent to 60 percent, during the same period.

“Each contributor to this publication,” says Jim Wolfston, CEO of CollegeNET, “clearly understands that the current economic trends limiting access to higher education have no place in a country that has historically touted economic opportunity, sought to broadly optimize its citizens’ potential and prepare them for participation in our democracy.”

Economic Inclusion Helps Spark Innovative Minds

Wolfston reinforces this point in his concluding essay, which discusses the role that economic inclusion and diversity play in preparing citizens to innovate and think critically.

When a college offers a challenging environment populated with diverse ideas, personal backgrounds and viewpoints, it prepares students to encounter, navigate and appreciate the unfamiliar,” says Wolfston. “Given that innovation always depends upon a person’s ability to consider what could be different from their own assumptions and experiences, economic inclusion is thus not only a solution to a social justice issue, it is a key strategy for sparking innovative minds.”

Four Critical Approaches for Enhancing Student Success and Social Mobility

Each e-book contributor describes innovative and impactful approaches for enhancing student success and social mobility.

Baruch College -- A Start-to-Finish Philosophy

Dr. Mitchel Wallerstein, President of Baruch College, explains why social mobility resulting from higher education rests as much on strong academics and an engaged faculty as it does on support services that enable students to excel in professional environments.

Says Wallerstein: “Baruch College’s start-to-finish philosophy includes soft-skills training, career advising and résumé writing, networking etiquette and opportunities, financial support so students can take valuable and often unpaid internships, and sometimes even suits to wear to the job interview. Students who are often the first in their family to go to college, or who are undocumented and may be living below the poverty line, have particular needs that colleges must address so they can manage the financial, psychological, emotional, and social demands of higher education and professional life.”

UC Irvine -- Re-Defining the Elite University Model

Dr. Michael Dennin, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning at University of California, Irvine, makes the case for re-defining elite universities so that diverse groups of incoming students can achieve a well-defined set of high-level outcomes.

“We must develop a new process,” says Dennin. “And we need to keep asking about our basic assumptions of how the university experience is designed. Is the basic structure of a general education and major experience the best design for the 21st-century student? Is there something inherent in the four-year degree model? What is the right financial model for student success and to effectively fund universities? How do we scale effective practices to serve larger numbers of students? As people research and debate these questions, we will move universities from the current model that evolved to serve a select portion of society to ones that are able to serve everyone.”

Winston-Salem State University -- Examining Each Student’s Entire Educational Experience

Dr. Elwood Robinson, Chancellor of Winston-Salem State University, stresses the need to examine each student’s entire educational experience -- from the relevance of the curriculum to the availability of co-curricular activities that connect all students’ academic experience to their relationship with the community in which they live.

I don’t believe that financial resources alone will close the widening academic success gap in the United States,” says Robinson. “In recent years, Ivy League and other selective institutions have awarded scholarships to high-achieving students from low-income families. Sadly, though, once these students arrive on their campuses, they often become overwhelmed. So, while scholarship funding is essential, students, particularly first-generation and those from low-income families, also require an educational experience that integrates academic guidance, mentoring, support services and a caring community. This will help us produce well-rounded and well-prepared graduates who are critical thinkers, analytical problem solvers, effective communicators, and innovative and creative collaborators.”

UC Santa Cruz -- Re-Organizing the University to Focus on the “Whole Student”

Dr. Jaye Padgett, Vice Provost for Student Success at University of California, Santa Cruz, lays out the reasons why universities must re-organize to focus on the “whole student.”

Says Padgett: “We know that a student’s academic performance is affected by -- and affects -- what goes on outside of the classroom. A student’s sense of safety and belonging; their financial well-being; health -- all of these factors and more affect academic success. Yet the way universities are organized does not normally help us address academic and non-academic factors in an integrated way. Faculty in academic divisions design the curriculum and engage students in the classroom, while staff in a separate Student Affairs or Student Life division provide services and opportunities to engage and develop students outside of it … I believe that an organizational commitment to -- or reflection of -- the whole student is important to student success efforts. This is all the more true given our changing student body.”

Reversing Higher Education’s Harmful “Tri-Imperfecta”

Wolfston concludes: "Higher education has been 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 frequently to richer families. Fortunately, the thoughtful contributors to this e-book offer insights and powerful solutions that can help reverse these trends.”

About the Social Mobility Index (SMI)

CollegeNET’s Social Mobility Index ranks four-year U.S. colleges and universities according to how effectively they enroll students from low-income backgrounds and graduate them into promising careers. The goal of the SMI -- now in its fourth year -- is to help redirect the attribution of "prestige" in the higher education system toward colleges and universities that are advancing economic mobility, the most pressing civic issue of our time. Each year, CollegeNET also selects and acknowledges schools that are fostering social mobility through innovative programs. CollegeNET presents the annual Social Mobility Innovator Awards to five key thought leaders from U.S. colleges and universities at the Social Mobility Summit. The Social Mobility Summit is an annual forum on economic inclusion and best practices for student success, held in Portland, Oregon each summer. See the complete SMI rankings.


CollegeNET, Inc.
Jill Thacker


CollegeNET, Inc.
Jill Thacker