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 Strategic Planning Trend 4 



Institutional Strategic Planning Initiative White Paper

Trend Four Subcommittee Report

Trend Four: Increasing Challenges to Higher Education’s
Commitment to Social Mobility 

Access to higher education is the principal mechanism for making America’s unwritten social compact work:  to provide genuine equality of opportunity.  Public funding is always a concern in higher education.  Financial aid has undergone two major changes:  shifting overwhelmingly toward loans, rising from about half to three-quarters of all federal aid, creating a negative effect on those of low and middle income because they fear heavy debt to pay for a college education.  State financing of higher education continues to lag behind costs as legislatures demand strategies for cost containment.  Public funding changes are shifting the social compact to more dependence on the individual’s ability to pay, [thus] decreasing affordability for a large segment of the population’s access to higher education.

A college education is considered a major key in achieving economic success and upward mobility in American society. However, first-generation and low-income (FGLI) students and students of color (SC) still have many disadvantages ranging from financial to personal needs and from cultural to institutional barriers. Statistics show that FGLI/SC students are two times more likely to abandon studies than students who do not have these associated risk factors and they are less likely to return (Renny Christopher in “New Working Class Studies in Higher Education”). Slippery Rock University, as a premier residential institution, needs to continue its successful strategies and develop new strategies that narrow this gap.  In addition, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) has established accountability measures that include, number of degrees awarded, second year persistence  by ethnicity, graduation rates by ethnicity, diversity of entering class, internships, and enrollment diversity; all of which are addressed within the goals and strategies/actions associated with improving Slippery Rock University’s commitment to social mobility.

To clearly define these strategies/actions, existing trends first must be shared. These trends include but are not limited to:

  • Stringently defined retention and graduation rate performance indicators affect the institution’s direct and indirect funding sources. Unfortunately, these indicators do not take into consideration the unique characteristics and challenges faced by First Generation/Low Income students. Since maximizing PASSHE performance funding is critical to the institution’s long-term viability, SRU has responded by increasing the number of transfer students (over 20% in 8 years); many of whom are FGLI.  The FGLI student population at both the freshman and transfer levels has not yet been thoroughly studied to determine their comparative graduation/retention rates and the appropriate intervention strategies that should be developed to ensure their success.
  • Across the nation, there is an increased awareness and interest in service learning and civic engagement. Students participating in such activities/internships can not only improve their opportunities for college success, but such activities can have a significant positive impact on first generation, low income students and students of color.
  • Unemployment and underemployment are more prevalent for those who lack a college degree, and income level and quality of life are closely related to educational attainment. While many SRU students value a college degree, some wish to remain in the local employment market and will not leave the region to seek opportunity.
  • Availability of resources to provide professional development opportunities to faculty, staff, and administration regarding issues of socioeconomic class remains in competition with other individual and institutional priorities.

SRU Goals and Actions

Currently at SRU, 47% of the fall 2009 first-year cohort students are first generation, 38.4% are low income and 9.1% are students of color. These students enter a new, often alien culture in the university, with a value system that may conflict with their home experience.  SRU has and will continue to undertake efforts to assist with this transition.

According to research published by the Access to Success Initiative (A2S), within PASSHE there were fewer low-income students (27% versus 35%) than would be expected if such students entered at the same rate as other students in the state. In addition, their research shows that first year students from underrepresented minority groups graduated with bachelor’s degrees at lower rates than other students (38% versus 58%). In addition, demands by external forces for increased selectivity serve to reduce access for many FGLI/SC students.

The following goals and strategies should help first generation-low income (FGLI) students and students of color (SC) succeed in persistence and attainment of a college degree. These goals and strategies align with Diversity Strategic Planning, Foundations of Excellence, the Assessment Initiative, and Institutional Strategic Planning.

The members of our committee have prioritized the recommended actions under each goal to assist the University’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee as they review this document.  Those actions listed first under each goal are considered to be of the highest priority.

Goal 1 – Student Identification, Tracking, Support and Assessment

Improve student learning and success of low-income, first-generation students and students of color, (FGLI/SC) including first-year and transfer cohorts, as measured by improved retention and graduation rates, obtained through existing and expanded institutional research processes.


ACTION      Identify freshman and transfer FGLI/SC students when they enter the university. (AA)
MEASURE  The number of FGLI/SC Freshmen and transfer students enrolled annually by ethnicity and gender.
UPDATE    To be established during the 2011-2012 academic year


ACTION      Increase the amount of need-based funding from private sources (SRU Foundation, Inc.) and public sources (financial aid) for FGLI/SC students. (ADV & AA)
MEASURE   Determine current levels of funding from both sources and increase appropriately
BASELINE  Current private and public funding levels 


ACTION      The Department of Academic Services will offer academic support, transitional and academic advisement services for new freshmen and transfer FGLS/SC students. (AA)
MEASURE  The number of students in the program.  Academic integration factors for new freshmen and transfer students including persistence and graduation rates, cumulative QPA, and others to be identified by the Academic Service dept.
BASELINE  To be established in the 2011-2012 academic year.


ACTION     Improve annual persistence and graduation rates for FGLI/ SC students who are first-time/fulltime freshmen and transfer students, and compare this data to that of their national peer groups and other SRU cohorts. (AA & SL)
MEASURE  Determine annual retention/persistence and graduation rates of these cohorts and compare them with other institutional cohort rates, state system rates, other peer groups and national benchmarks to better understand our institutional success. (IR)
BASELINE  First-to second and second–to-third year comparative persistence rates.  Also, four, five and six year graduation rates.  To be established in 2011-2012.


ACTION      Improve retention for first-time full-time students of color (African-American and Hispanic). (AA & SL)
MEASURE   Review of annual retention rates for first-time, full-time students of color.
BASELINE   First-to-second year persistence for African-American students  and Hispanic students     (64.9%) 2002
UPDATE      First-to-second year persistence (Cohort 2008 – 80.6%, up 1.8% from 2007, 78.8%), Second-to-third year persistence, (Cohort 2007-70.3%, no change from last year, 70.3%), Third-to-fourth year persistence, (Cohort 2006, 65.2%, up 2.2% from last year, 63.0%), Four-year graduation (Cohort 2005, 37.7%, up 1/8% from last year, 35.9%), Five-year graduation (Cohort 2004, 57.6%, up 4.8% from last year, 52.8%), Six-year graduation (Cohort 2003, 57.7%, down 1.5% from last year, 59.2%) 2009-2010


ACTION       Assess the level of student engagement of FGLI/SC students (AA)
MEASURE    Use NSSE – the National Survey of Student Engagement
BASELINE   Use a sub-group analysis to study student engagement for our FGLI/SC students

Goal Two – Faculty, Administration, and Staff Professional Development and Involvement:

Support faculty, administration, and staff by providing professional development activities that increases their awareness and understanding of unseen barriers as described in the report on SRU Diversity Initiatives.  Encourage faculty/staff/administration involvement with students in curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular activities.


ACTION      Include issues related to FGLI students within the university’s formal programs of diversity training and faculty development.(AA)
MEASURE   All employees participating in diversity training will receive information on the unique challenges faced by our FGLI students.  Faculty Professional Development Day will include presentations related to FGLI students.
BASELINE  Inclusion will begin during the 2011-2012 academic year.


ACTION      Identify an institutional model that enhances collaborative activities supporting FGLI/SC students among the Academic, Student Life, and Financial Affairs divisions to create a “whole person” academic/social learning experience as described in Foundations for Excellence. (AA,SL & FA)
MEASURE  Meetings with representatives from these 3 divisions of the university will be held during the 2011-2012 year.  By the end of the year the group’s report will be presented to the President’s cabinet.                                 
BASELINE  To be established during the 2011-2012 academic year.                  


ACTION      Provide resourcesfor the Frederick Douglass Institute, Honors Program, and International Initiatives to expand unique educational opportunities available to students and faculty. We are recommending FGLI students be included in this initiative. (AA)
MEASURE  The quantity and quality of involvement by students in these programs; number of students in honors courses, number of students going abroad, and types of programs offered through the Frederick Douglass Institute.(AA)
BASELINE  International Initiatives -175 in 11 courses; 272 Study Abroad students (2002-2003); Honors (no entry): Frederick Douglas Program (no entry). 
UPDATE     Frederick Douglass Institute – 9 programs, 493 participants (2009); 12 programs, 575 participants (2008); 8 programs, 390 participants (2007); 10 programs, 434 participants (2006); Honors Program – 266 participants (2009); 230 participants (2008); 235 participants (2007); 240 participants (2006); International Services – 426 students overseas, 18 countries, 112 studied abroad (2009) 333 students overseas, 20 countries, 112 studied abroad (2008) 331 students overseas, 20 countries, 122 studied abroad (2007); 356 students overseas, 21 countries, 173 studied abroad (2006). (2009)


ACTION     The Presidential Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity is creating a student mentoring program pairing Jump Start students with faculty/staff.  Compare the progress of FGLI/SC students in the Jump Start Program with their non FGLI/SC Jump Start peers.  (PCRED, AA & SL)
MEASURE  Track retention and graduation rates of students in Jump Start Program, track progress related to co-curricular activities, civic engagement, QPA, etc
BASELINE To be established in the 2011-2012 academic year.                            

Goal Three – Service Learning and Civic Engagement

Increase FGLI/SC enrollment and retention through an increased focus on student leadership and civic engagement. By involving successful FGLI/SC students in lower income community service learning projects, SRU can benefit both current and future SRU students.


ACTION      Develop a student leadership certification processto ensure that all students meet basic competencies in leadership skills and to provide advanced certification for those who choose to pursue additional experience. We are recommending that a special effort be made to increase FGLI/SC participation.  (SL)
MEASURE   Increase number of students participating    in the advanced leadership certification process.
BASELINE  Certification process does not exist. (Fall 2003)
UPDATE     Leadership collaborative team consisting of faculty, staff, and student representatives met regularly to identify leadership competencies and design a certification program for implementation.  (Fall 2004)
UPDATE     Currently, 1928 students are enrolled in the Compass Leadership Program (22% of the undergraduate population), which is a 6.8% increase from last year.  850 students received Level 1 Certification, compared to 33 last year, 12 students were paired with faculty/staff mentors and received Level 3 certification compared with 8 students last year. (Spring 2010)


ACTION      Provide our FGLI/SC students with increased leadership and volunteer opportunities to work with children and teenagers with similar backgrounds, and better utilize internship experiences (paid and unpaid) to foster greater participation in service learning and develop a culture of responsible, respectful, and diverse leaders that affect positive change on campus and their communities.  (AA & SL)
MEASURE   Increase the number of courses/internships that include a service learning components with low income students and determine the impact of student participation in these opportunities with the use of a meaningful measurement. (Examples include student satisfaction, student engagement and self-efficacy).
BASELINE  3450.5 hours were served and 750 SRU students participated in campus sponsored service programs (Spring 2010)


ACTION     Foster collaborative development efforts between University Advancement and our student leadership and service learning programs to increase financial support for participating FGLI/SC students  (UA & SL).
MEASURE  Increase the number of service learning opportunities that enable our FGLI/SC students with a demonstrated financial need to receive funding for performing community service.
BASELINE Establish guidelines and funding sources for FGLI/SC eligibility for student leadership opportunities, utilizing Academic Services, Frederick Douglass and Office of Multicultural Development program students. Guidelines, fundraising initiatives will begin in 2011 and funding will start by fall 2012. 


ACTION      Increase FGLI/SC enrollment and retention through an increased focus on student leadership and civic engagement through the coordination and implementation of the Service Learning requirement as set forth by the Carnegie Classification of Student Engagement.
MEASURE   Coordinate a campus-wide data collection model to supply required information for said application.
BASELINE   An application was submitted by the August 2010 deadline and that data will serve as the benchmark for improvement.


ACTION     The Center for Student Involvement and Leadership will computerize student organization registration and co-curricular experience transcript processes to increase student use of the program. We are recommending that a special effort be made to increase FGLI/SC participation. (SL)
MEASURE  Number of participants in the student organization and number of students using the co-curricular transcript program. 
BASELINE  Utilizing a paper submission process, 86 student organizations registered (October 1, 2004) with the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership during the 2004-2005 academic year.  As of October 31, 2004, 400 students registered for the co-curricular experiences/transcript program through a paper process.  No computer process exists. 
UPDATE     4,001 students are registered for the online co-curricular transcript program, a 70% increase from last year.  156 (100%) recognized clubs and organizations are utilizing the Compasslink online organizational management software program.  (2009-2010)

Goal Four—Social, Economic, and Technological Mobility

Identify distinct “mobility” issues, related to the social, economic, and technological mobility of FGLI/SC and transfer students.  A college education is no longer a luxury, but a necessity to compete for entry-level positions; however, FGLI/SC students frequently do not enjoy the social/career networking opportunities, economic resources, and technological applications that are available to middle and upper income cohorts.


ACTION     Identify institutional cultural, economic, and technological barriers that limit FGLI/SC students’ success. (AA & SL)
MEASURE  A working group will be established to research this issue and issue its findings from which possible actions may be taken.
BASELINE  A report will be presented by the end of the 2011-2012 academic year.


ACTION      Identify resources to assist with economic barriers (book loans, transportation, housing, technology, etc.) and costs for internships and international experiences that facilitate professional and social growth. (AA,ADV&SL)
MEASURE    Increase the need-based financial aid available to assist FGLI/SC students overcome the economic hurdles they must overcome to afford their education with a minimum of debt.    
BASELINE   By fall 2012, additional funding will be in place to assist these students.


ACTION     Assist students in developing a wider geographic vision of employment opportunities and define a model for social, career networking and mentoring opportunities for FGLI/SC students at SRU (AA)                                                   
MEASURE  Career Services will incorporate in its services/materials information and resources that assist students in overcoming their resistance to leaving the region to find employment and will collaborate with academic departments to develop networking/mentoring events for FGLI/SC students.
BASELINE  To be established during the 2011-2012 academic year.


ACTION     Academic programs will create advisory boardscomprised of employers in the profession. (AA)
MEASURE  Number of programs with advisory boards.
BASELINE College of Education total (5); 1 for college; 4 for departments; only Sport Management does not have an advisory board. (2003); College of Business, Information, Social Sciences total (4), 4 for departments, only Political Science Department does not have an advisory board. (2003) College of Health, Environment, and Science total (4) (2003) College of Humanities, Fine and Performing Arts total (0). (2003)
UPDATE    College of Education, all six departments have advisory committees, with two college boards; College of Business, Information, and Social Sciences have six advisory boards all of whom have met with department faculty to review and discuss 2008-2009 assessment results; College of Health, Environment, and Science has a total of fifteen advisory boards (including the Pennsylvania Center for Environmental Education – PCEE); College of Humanities, Fine and Performing Arts, has an advisory board for all eight departments, as well as the Honors Program. (2009) 

Resources – SRU’s Strategic Planning Trend 4 Committee

The following articles, reports and PowerPoint presentations were used by the committee members throughout the year and a half they were working on this paper.

AACU publication: More Reasons for Hope:  Diversity Matters in Higher Education

  • This summarizes exceptional programs at 31 colleges and universities; all dealing in one manner or the other with diversity.

ACU publication:  Civic Engagement at the Center- Building Democracy through Integrated Co curricular and Curricular Experiences.mht

  • This AACU publication discusses the Bonner Foundation, its programs and scholarships. The aims of the Bonner Foundation closely align with SRU’s Institute for Community, Service-Learning & Nonprofit Leadership and Center for Student Involvement and Leadership. 

Augustine, Norman R. Chair, Rising Above the Gathering Storm Committee: National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine of the National Academies: Is America Falling off the Flat Earth  2007

  • This paper addresses the issue of America’s competitiveness in the future…particularly as it relates to the teaching of math and science, and the government’s investment in basic research (the creation of new knowledge).

Boggs, William. Across the Great Divide-Crossing Classes and Clashing Cultures - B. Jensen. Strat Plan-Across the Great Divide-Jensen.ppt PowerPoint.  It was developed from Barbara Jensen’s article. This presentation deals with the “working class” student, and how moving from the working class to the middle class creates special challenges not experienced by other students.

Boggs, William. Promises to Keep-Working Class Students and Higher Education-Tokarczyk. Strat Plan-Promises to Keep-Tokarczyk.ppt
It was developed from Michelle Tokarczyk’s article.  This presentation also deals with working class students but focuses a bit more on the impact (positive and negative) faculty and peers can have on these students.

Boggs, William. The Working Class & Education-Do We Help or Hinder?
Strat Plan-Working Class-Do We Help or Hinder-Boggs.ppt

This was originally presented as part of Professional Development Day 2008.  It contains some excellent information related to the unique barriers low-income students confront when attending postsecondary schools.

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Education Levels and Unemployment at the End of 2008.

Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) - Seven Revolutions – The complete report. Strat Plan 7 Revolutions.pdf (1.729 Mb)

College Board’s Commission on Access, Admissions and Success in Higher Education.  Coming to Our Senses: Education and the American Future
Strat Plan coming-to-our-senses-college-board-2008.pdf This report recommends improving middle and high school counseling, reducing dropouts, improving teacher quality, increasing need-based aid, and increasing college graduation rates. December 2008

Choy, Susan.  College Access and Affordability. NCES, 1999

  • This essay from the Condition of Education, 1998, shows the enrollments of students from different social-economic backgrounds in different types of postsecondary institutions and the amounts (net of student aid received in different forms) they must contribute from their own resources to attend a postsecondary institution.

Dews, Ed, Barney, C. L. and Leste Law, Carolyn. This Fine Place So Far from Home: Voices of Academics from the Working Class. Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1995.

Fox, S. & Jones, S. (2009). The Social Life of Health Information. Pew Internet and American Life Project. Retrieved from Health-Information. aspx

Handout from First Committee Meeting - 2/05/09
Strategic Planning Committee-1st meeting handout.doc

Komives, Susan & Wagner, Wendy.  Leadership for a Better World: Understanding Social Change Model of Leadership Development. San Francisco, Josey-Bass Press, 2009.

Komives, Susan & Lucas, Nance & McMahon, Timothy. Exploring Leadership: For College Students Who Want to Make a Difference, 2nd Edition. San Francisco, Josey-Bass Press, 2006.

Lareau, Annette. Unequal Childhoods: Class Race, and Family Life. Berkeley, U. of California Press. 2003

Lubrano, Alfred. Limbo: Blue Collar Roots, White Collar Dreams. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2004.

Payne, Ruby K. A Framework for Understanding Poverty. 4th Edition. Highlands, aha! Process, Inc. 2005.

Payne, Ruby K. and Don. L. Krabill. Hidden Rules of Class at Work. Highlands, aha! Process, Inc.2002.

Pell Institute: Moving Beyond Access: College Success for Low-Income, First-Generation Students.

It provides excellent, comprehensive research and suggestions on working with first-generation, low-income students.

Pennsylvania Governor’s Conference on Higher Education.  Stepping It Up: Building Pathways to College Success in PA and Nationwide. March, 2009

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. The High Cost of Higher Education
strategic_planning_4/content/_524680_1/Strat Plan PA Partnershipcollege_affordability.pdf
It discusses the cost of higher education in PA.

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1042 (excerpts). December, 2009.

This bill includes the following provisions:

The following shall apply to appropriations for the State System of Higher Education from the General Appropriation Act:

(1)  Each public institution of higher education as defined in Article XX-C of the Public School Code of 1949 shall do all of the following:

(i)  Agree to accept with full junior standing the Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree into a parallel baccalaureate program as outlined in subparagraph (iii) by the timelines established by the Transfer and Articulation Oversight Committee but no later than December 31, 2011. For purposes of this paragraph, an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree is a degree designed primarily for transfer to a baccalaureate institution and must contain a minimum of 60 credits.

(B)  Identify Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree programs for transfer with full junior standing into a parallel baccalaureate degree in consultation with faculty and personnel in those degree programs by December 31, 2011.

(D)  Define requirements, in consultation with faculty and personnel, for education degrees, including Early Childhood Education degrees, leading to certification to be included in an associate degree and to be accepted for transfer with full junior standing into a parallel baccalaureate degree program.

Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Access to Success Baseline Metrics: Bachelor’s Degree Programs. WWW.EDTRUST.ORG

PPG Editorial. Higher Cost Ed It discusses recent recommendations from the State’s Council on Higher Education and questions why a public higher education in PA costs the student so much more than in neighboring states. 1/25/09

Rainie, L., Pew Internet American Life Project: Internet, Broadband and Cell Phone Statistics.  Retrieved from 2010.

Russo, Ed and Linkon, John and Sherry Lee. New Working Class Studies Ithaca, ILR Press.2005.

Smith, Robert. President's Vision Statement
Presidents Vision Statement.doc
(25.5 Kb)
This is President Smith's Vision Statement for the university.  

Smith, Robert. Strategic Plan - Trend 4 Statement and Themes

Zweig, Michael. What’s Class Got to Do with It?: American Society in the Twenty-First Century. Ithaca, ILR Press. 2004.

Zweig, Michael. The Working Class Majority: America’s Best Kept Secret. Ithaca, ILR Press. 2000.


Between 1991 and 2006, SRU had collected information on first-generation status using a Freshman Survey that was administered periodically to incoming classes.  During that time, approximately two-thirds of our FTFY students were reporting they were first-generation college students. 

Beginning with the fall 2009 admissions application, the question about first-generation status now appears on that application, and will continue to appear there in future years.   Our definition of “First Generation” conforms to national norms and means neither of the student’s parents have a Baccalaureate degree.  Based on the information collected on the application, 47% of the fall 2009 FTFY were first generation.


The determination of low-income for our students is made based upon information reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  A family’s taxable income is then compared to the Annual Low Income Levels ( as identified for use by the Federal TRIO Programs.   The low-income determination is calculated by our computer center staff and provided to the Office of Institutional Research which then uses that information to determine the percent of our freshman cohort that is low income.  At SRU, beginning with the fall 2003 cohort, the percent of our students identified as low income is as follows:

Low Income Students

Fall 2009 FTFY Cohort


Fall 2008 FTFY Cohort


Fall 2007FTFY Cohort


Fall 2006 FTFY Cohort


Fall 2005 FTFY Cohort


Fall 2004 FTFY Cohort


Fall 2003 FTFY Cohort




SRU’s Office of Institutional Research provides detailed information on the race/ethnicity of our students via the Common Data Set.  In recent years, the race/ethnicity breakdown of our FTFY class has been:

Students of Color (in shaded columns)


Black, non-Hispanic

Am Indian or Alaska Native

Asian or Pacific Islander


White, non-Hispanic

Race/ ethnicity unknown

Non-resident aliens

%age of Students of Color

Fall 2009 (1545)









Fall 2008 (1547)









Fall 2007 (1508)









Fall 2006 (1432)









Fall 2005 (1465)









Fall 2004 (1543)









Fall 2003 (1491)


























Steering Committee  

President Cheryl J. Norton
Dr. Philip Way
Ms. Molly Mercer
Dr. Robert Watson
Ms. Barbara Ender
Ms. Rita Abent
Ms. Tina Moser
Mr. Eliott Baker
Dr. Nancy Barta-Smith
Ms. Carrie Birckbichler
Dr. John Bonando
Dr. Patrick Burkhart (APSCUF)
Dr. Patti Campbell
Mr. Herb Carlson
Dr. Jerry Chmielewski
Mr. Rogers Clements (SGA)
Dr. Cornelius Cosgrove
Ms. Lorraine Craven
Dr. Keith Dils

Dr. Thomas Flynn 
Dr. Susan Hannam
Ms. Mary Hennessey
Dr. Athula Herat
Ms. Samantha Kelly
Ms. Mary Ann King
Mr. Paul Lueken
Dr. Jeffrey Lynn
Ms. Holly McCoy
Ms. Lynne Motyl
Dr. Randall Nichols
Dr. Paula Olivero
Ms. Deb Pincek
Dr. Katrina Quinn

Mr. Regis Schiebel
Ms. Kelly Sladden (ARHS)
Dr. Langdon Smith
Dr. Steven Strain
Ms. Melissa Teodoro
Mr. Philip Tramdack
Dr. Eva Tsuquiashi-Daddesio
Mr. Tom Watson (AFSCME)
Dr. Amanda Yale