UC Santa Cruz earns award for social mobility innovation

Campus leaders
From left, Campus Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor Marlene Tromp, Vice Provost for Student Success Jaye Padgett, and Chancellor George Blumenthal

UC Santa Cruz has been honored with a Social Mobility Innovator award for 2017. The honor, awarded to five universities across the nation, was presented in June at the annual CollegeNet conference, called the Social Mobility Summit.

Jaye Padgett, vice provost of student success, accepted the award on behalf of the university, calling it an honor and the result of a campuswide commitment to educational opportunity.

For the past few years UC Santa Cruz has ranked high on what is known as the Social Mobility Index. The index was devised by CollegeNet chief executive Jim Wolfston, who is not a fan of the well-known college rankings. The SMI aims to measure the extent to which a college or university educates economically disadvantaged students (family incomes below the national median) at lower tuition, so they can graduate and obtain good paying jobs.

UC Santa Cruz, 13th in the nation on the most recent index, was selected as an innovator because of its continuing commitment to a “whole student” philosophy.

“Our central objective is educational equity,” said Padgett, a professor in linguistics. “We look at larger forces, like the family challenges or financial hardships that our students face, or non-cognitive factors, such as whether they have a sense of belonging on campus. These things definitely matter when you’re talking about engagement, retention and student success. It’s fantastic to see our approach recognized.”

Among the university’s strengths cited by the award granters: the residential-college system, academic support programs dedicated to increasing the diversity of students earning bachelor’s degrees in STEM, Hispanic-Serving Institution status, and optional preparation programs offered during the summer to students who have yet to enroll.

“UC Santa Cruz is providing real educational opportunity to promising students regardless of their economic background,” Wolfston said earlier this year of the university’s efforts. “Its civic contribution is key given that economic mobility and the American Dream are rapidly deteriorating. ... UC Santa Cruz’s focus and innovation provide an example of how we can reverse these trends.”