PORTLAND, OREGON – JAN. 25, 2017 – CollegeNET, Inc., a leading provider of web-based, on-demand technologies for higher education, and creator of the Social Mobility Index (SMI), has selected the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley as the second of 10 Social Mobility Innovators for 2017.
The Social Mobility Index is a data-driven system that 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 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.
UTRGV, a public university with nearly 28,000 students, was formed from two legacy institutions – the University of Texas at Brownsville and the University of Texas-Pan American – in 2015. About 90 percent of UTRGV’s students are Hispanic, and in 2016 the university was ranked among the top 20 schools in the SMI data.
“Most of the higher education rankings try to help students choose a college or university,” said 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 U.S 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 UTRGV that are already skilled at doing this.”
ELIMINATING COLLEGE COST PRESSURES AND BARRIERS
UTRGV was selected as CollegeNET’s second Social Mobility Innovator for 2017 because it has developed a series of cutting-edge programs designed to make college affordable for low-income students and help them realize the significant economic opportunity an undergraduate degree offers.
Dr. Kristin Croyle, UTRGV vice president for Student Success, said a large proportion of the university’s students are from low-income families and are the first generation in their families to attend college.
“We really believe that they’re excellent students and that they deserve to be here on campus,” Croyle said. “That’s why we have such a strong institutional will to serve them, and why student success is our first priority.”
A key part of this student-centric effort has been UTRGV’s attempt to eliminate cost pressures and barriers, which have negatively affected college retention and graduation rates across the United States.
Tuition and fees for a resident undergraduate at UTRGV in academic year 2016-2017 are $7,438 – the second-lowest in the University of Texas System and the third-lowest in Texas for all public universities.
Nationally, UTRGV’s $7,438 cost is lower than the average 2016-2017 tuition and fees for state residents at public colleges – $9,650 – according to the College Board.
In addition to low tuition, UTRGV guarantees undergraduates that their tuition won’t increase for four years. The university also offers students a robust emergency loan program if their scholarship or aid money is delayed or held up by bureaucratic red tape.
Also, tuition and mandatory fee charges at UTRGV are capped for resident students at 12 credit hours each semester – which allows many students to take an extra three to six credit hours per semester for free.
“Students are saving money and are on track to graduate earlier because of this program,” said Croyle, who points out that about one-third of all UTRGV students currently are enrolled in 15 or more credit hours.
To fully prepare students for the post-graduate world, UTRGV provides an array of academic internships and makes sure that undergraduates have every available opportunity for on-campus employment.
“Our university staff has to hire a student for a part-time job opening or justify a non-student hire, because if students work on campus, they’re more likely to go to class and do better academically,” Croyle said.
ATTACKING HIGHER EDUCATION’S HARMFUL ‘TRI-IMPERFECTA’
“It’s inspiring that a new university like UTRGV is focused on providing educational opportunity to promising students regardless of their economic background,” said CollegeNET’s Wolfston.
“And UTRGV’s selection as a 2017 Social Mobility Innovator is even more important, given the fact that higher education’s key role in advancing economic mobility and the American Dream is rapidly deteriorating. Indeed, we’re caught in a very damaging ‘tri-imperfecta’ right now. 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. The work that UTRGV is doing can help reverse these trends.”