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California State University, Northridge is Named a 2018 Social Mobility Innovator

Portland, Or., March 27, 2018

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 that California State University, Northridge (CSUN) has been selected as a Social Mobility Innovator for 2018. The 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 our higher education system toward colleges and universities that are advancing economic mobility, the most pressing civic issue of our time.

CSUN enrolls approximately 36,000 undergraduate students and is part of the California State University System. The school has ranked among the top 20 schools on the SMI three of the past four years (2014-2017). Nearly 40 percent of CSUN's undergraduates are the first members of their family to attend college. And more than 50 percent of the school's students receive need-based financial grants.

"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 CSUN that are skilled at doing this."

Each year, CollegeNET selects and acknowledges schools -- such as CSUN -- 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."

Keeping the Doors of Opportunity Open

CSUN was selected as a CollegeNET Social Mobility Innovator for 2018 because it offers low-income students a supportive culture that helps build resiliency in students facing some of the greatest obstacles to academic success.

"We're committed to keeping the doors of opportunity open for our students," says Shiva Parsa, Director of Educational Opportunity Programs at CSUN. "But that doesn't mean we just put students in the classroom and say they'll be fine. Many of our students come from historically low-income and educationally disadvantaged homes. Many have been surrounded by negativity in their communities. Many lack positive role models. And many have never associated with people outside their culture or race until they get to our campus. So it's a big emotional transition, and there's a lot of learning and unlearning involved. That's where we help."

Adds Elizabeth Riegos-Olmos, Director of the Student Services Center and Educational Opportunity Programs in CSUN's College of Science and Mathematics: "We try to make sure our students build resiliency and develop grit so they can overcome all these obstacles when they arrive at school. We provide hope. We say, ‘This is worth trying and don't give up.' Students need to know the importance and value of not falling by the wayside."

Building Trust-Based Mentoring Relationships

CSUN's Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP) provide nearly 10 percent of its student population with critical access and retention services -- including transition support, academic support and financial support. Each of these programs has been designed and implemented to reflect the diversity of CSUN's feeder communities as well as the diversity of the school itself.

Faculty mentoring at CSUN is also vital. The university trains its mentors to help students surmount the barriers they've experienced before college matriculation. That means building connected, trust-based relationships with students, no matter the difference in backgrounds between the educators and students.

"Our faculty is nearly 60 percent white and our student population is approximately 50 percent Latino," says Riegos-Olmos, "so we work really hard to develop these mentoring relationships."

In addition to mentoring relationship development, CSUN has multiple programs in place to increase faculty diversity in an effort to ensure students are taught by faculty who reflect and understand their values, background and experiences.

Adds Parsa: "We're creating a real community of mentors. Everyone at our school -- faculty, staff and administrators -- understands the importance of mentoring."

Reversing Higher Education's Harmful "Tri-Imperfecta"

"CSUN is providing real educational opportunity to promising students regardless of their economic background," says CollegeNET's Wolfston. "CSUN'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 ‘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. CSUN'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 worldwide for event and academic scheduling, recruitment and admissions management, web-based tuition processing, instructor and course evaluation, web-based career services for students, cultural learning and college preparation, and electronic academic records delivery. CollegeNET also directly supports greater affordability and access to higher education through its student forum. Students cite and debate topics, vote for one another, and compete for scholarships. CollegeNET has awarded more than $2 million in college scholarships to date through this site. The company is headquartered in Portland, Oregon.

Media Contact:
Jill Thacker