CollegeNET, Inc., a leading provider of web-based on-demand technologies for higher education and the developer of the Social Mobility Index (SMI), named 12 Historically Black Colleges and Universities Social Mobility Innovators for 2019.
The Social Mobility Index ranks nearly 1,400 four-year U.S. colleges and universities according to how successfully they enroll students from low-income backgrounds and graduate them into promising careers. The goal of the SMI — now in its fifth 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.
The 12 HBCUs named Social Mobility Innovators for 2019 all rank among the top 10 percent of schools on the SMI. The schools are —
Most higher education rankings evaluate colleges and universities as if comparing brands for consumer 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 doing the most to drive U.S. economic mobility. We hope the SMI encourages more institutions to embrace and expand their role as conduits for restoring the promise of the American Dream. The first step in doing this is to identify and learn from colleges and universities like these 12 HBCUs.
Economic Inclusion Helps Spark Innovative Minds
“College education now constitutes the most important rung on the ladder of economic mobility, adds Wolfston. But particularly when it offers a challenging environment populated with diverse ideas, personal backgrounds and viewpoints, a college does something even more important: it prepares students to encounter, navigate and appreciate the unfamiliar. Given that innovation always depends upon a persons 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.”
Affordability, Access, Equity and Opportunity
The 12 HBCUs were selected as CollegeNET Social Mobility Innovators for 2019 because they each offer a 21st century learning experience that makes a real difference in the lives of low-income students.
HBCUs have a long history of educating exceptionally promising students from under-resourced families, says Elwood L. Robinson, Chancellor of Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) and an HBCU graduate himself. We have always provided a nurturing environment that allows students to build confidence and cultivate leadership skills. This has given HBCUs an advantage in narrowing the academic success gap and improving social mobility. At Winston-Salem State University, we are committed to producing graduates who are critical thinkers, analytical problem solvers, effective communicators and innovative and creative collaborators who can thrive in our rapidly evolving and complex world.”
Removing Barriers to Learning
WSSU — which is the top-ranked HBCU on the SMI, and one of only five universities in the nation that has consistently ranked among the top 20 schools on the SMI over the past five years — offers a 21st century educational vision that has recently been bolstered by several major academic grants.
Earlier this year, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded WSSU a $600,000 grant to strengthen its programs in the humanities. WSSU is one of the few public HBCUs — and one of only five University of North Carolina System institutions — to receive a grant over the Mellon Foundations 50-year history. The three-year grant will provide the infrastructure to support faculty development and curriculum redesign for courses in art and visual studies, English, history and music. Indeed, over the next three years, WSSU faculty will restructure at least 54 humanities courses — from introductory courses to the senior capstone course — to support student success.
Our strategic plan calls for a high-touch approach to bridge the gaps between students and their abilities to engage their education, says Anthony Graham, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at WSSU. This grant will provide us with the resources to introduce these equitable practices throughout our humanities offerings. Research has found that this high-impact approach fosters student success and ensures that students obtain the essential skills they need to thrive in an ever-changing economy.
The Mellon announcement came just several months after WSSU reported a record $2.3 million in new National Science Foundation (NSF) grants that will help expand research opportunities for undergraduate students. The NSF funding will support research in chemistry, cybersecurity, biophysics, biology, psychology and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education.
Reversing Economic Trends for the Betterment of Society
The 12 HBCUs that have been named as Social Mobility Innovators for 2019 are providing world-class educational opportunity to promising students regardless of their economic background, says CollegeNETs Wolfston. Their contribution and example are key at a time when economic mobility and the American Dream are rapidly deteriorating. Today, as tuitions at U.S. campuses continue to increase while economic inclusion declines, these 12 HBCUs provide a strong example for reversing these trends.
Acknowledging Institutional Excellence
CollegeNET acknowledges schools — such as the 12 selected HBCUs — that are fostering social mobility through innovative programs. CollegeNET presents the annual Social Mobility Innovator Awards to student success leaders from U.S. colleges and universities at the Social Mobility Summit — an annual forum on economic inclusion and best practices for student success held in Portland, Oregon each summer. CollegeNET recently published an e-book that offers best practices from student success professionals who are pioneering innovative programs that support under-served and under-represented students academic, personal and financial needs.