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Cal Poly Pomona is Named a 2018 Social Mobility Innovator

Portland, Or., February 13, 2018

CollegeNET, Inc., a leading provider of web-based on-demand technologies for higher education and the developer of the Social Mobility Index (SMI), named Cal Poly Pomona a Social Mobility Innovator for 2018.

The Social Mobility Index 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. The goal of the SMI -- now in its fourth year -- is to help redirect the attribution of "prestige" in higher education system toward colleges and universities that are advancing economic mobility, the most pressing civic issue of our time.

Cal Poly Pomona enrolls approximately 24,000 undergraduate students and is part of the California State University system.

"Most higher education rankings approach the problem of comparing colleges and universities as evaluating a brand for consumer purchase," says Jim Wolfston, CEO of CollegeNET. "The SMI, on the other hand, helps policymakers, students and their families understand which colleges and universities are addressing the vital issue of improving U.S. economic mobility. By sponsoring the SMI, we hope administrators in higher education will begin to shift more of their focus on strengthening U.S. economic mobility and restoring the promise of the American Dream. The first step is to identify and learn from colleges and universities like Cal Poly Pomona that are skilled at doing this."

Each year, CollegeNET selects and acknowledges schools -- such as Cal Poly Pomona -- 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.

Economic Inclusion Helps Spark Innovative Minds

"College education now constitutes the most important rung on the ladder of economic mobility," says 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 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."

Removing Barriers for Students

Cal Poly Pomona was selected as a CollegeNET Social Mobility Innovator for 2018 because it offers low-income students a caring and personalized community that provides support from admission through graduation.

"We meet our students where they are in their lives," says Kevin Colaner, Associate Vice President for Student Services at Cal Poly Pomona. "We focus on their needs and challenges, and the steps we can take to help them achieve their dreams. We offer an extra layer of caring, and we like to think that kindness has become second nature on our campus. Students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Adds Thomas Cruz-Soto Jr., Associate Vice President and Dean of Students at Cal Poly Pomona: "Our students are invested in learning, and we remove as many barriers as possible."

Affordability, Access, Equity and Opportunity

Cal Poly Pomona makes a difference in the lives of low-income students through a number of programs and services that promote affordability, access, equity and opportunity.

The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), for example, offers essential resources to low-income, first-generation students. About 93 percent of freshmen in the program return for their sophomore year, compared to the university average of about 87 percent for first-time freshmen. These strong results are due, in part, to the campus' Summer Bridge and Transfer Bridge programs, which help EOP students make a smoother transition to the university setting.

The Renaissance Scholars program provides former foster youth with critical educational resources and a supportive environment. The program has graduated 66 scholars who have broken the cycle of abuse or poverty and transformed their future. According to the National Foster Youth Institute, less than 3 percent of former foster youths eventually earn a degree from a 4-year college or university.

Cal Poly Pomona's Project SUCCESS helps African American and Latino males navigate the educational process in order to boost their persistence, retention and graduation rates.

And the campus' Maximizing Engineering Potential (MEP) and RISE programs prepare traditionally under-represented minority women, as well as low-income and first-generation students, for careers in engineering and science.

"We're preparing our students for a multicultural workforce in a global economy," says Cruz-Soto. "And they're ready because of our hands-on approach to learning."

Adds Colaner: "Our students are gifted with creative spirits and innovative mindsets, and we always remind them that this is what employers really want."

Reversing a Damaging Situation

"Cal Poly Pomona is providing real educational opportunity to promising students regardless of their economic background," says CollegeNET's Wolfston. "Cal Poly Pomona's civic contribution is key given that economic mobility and the American Dream are rapidly deteriorating. Unfortunately, higher education is now caught in a damaging situation. Tuitions are increasing and economic inclusion is declining on campuses. Cal Poly Pomona's innovative approach provides a strong example for 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, instructor and course evaluation, and web-based career services for students. The company operates the social network through which students create topics, write about them, and vote to determine who will win scholarships. has awarded more than $2 million in scholarships to date. The company is headquartered in Portland, Oregon.

Media Contact:
Jill Thacker