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 Education As Access 



 Education as Access

Trend Four:  Value that knowledge grows and that education and a commitment to life-long learning are essential tools for all segments of our societies to be successful.    


Shaping the university’s student body to be representative of our country.

Providing strategies that assure access from all economic levels of the Commonwealth.

Operating with efficiency that maintains affordable costs to students.             

A college education is considered a major key in achieving economic success and upward mobility in American society. However, first-generation and low-income students and students of color still have many disadvantages ranging from financial to personal needs and from cultural to institutional barriers. Statistics show that low income students and students of color 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. 

For the purpose of strategic planning, low income students are identified as Pell Grant Recipients.  Underrepresented Minority Students (URM) – Includes African-American, Hispanic, and American-Indian students; as well as students who report a combination of Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander with any other race.  Students who select Hispanic and another race are considered Hispanic, not multiracial.  Non-URM students include White, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and students who report White and Asian as their multiple races.  Unknown and nonresident aliens are excluded.  

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 low income.  The low income 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.

SRU Goal
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.


Increase the amount of need-based funding from private
(SRU Foundation, Inc.) and public sources
               (financial aid)for low income students. (ADV & AA)

MEASURE   Determine current levels of funding from both sources
               and increase appropriately

BASELINE   Current private and public funding levels

ACTION     Increase the amount of scholarship funding from private 
               sources paid out by Slippery Rock University Foundation,
               Inc. and the Alumni Association.  (UA)

MEASURE   Dollars expended by University Advancement (UA) and
Affairs for scholarships from July 1 to June 30

BASELINE   $504,179 (2003-2004) (UA), $19,064 (2003-2004)

UPDATE     $1,844,988, up 13.5% (2007-2008)

UPDATE     $1,978,529, up 7.2% (2008-2009)

UPDATE     $2,149,300 (including $167,000 provided through the new
Opportunity Fund), up 8.6% (2009-2010)
UPDATE     $1,993,302 (including $136,250 provided through the
               ROCK Opportunity Fund), down 7.3% (2010-2011)

ACTION     Improve retention for Underrepresented Minority Students(URM/Pell Grant recipients). (AA & SL)

BASELINE  First-to-second year persistence for African-American
               students (64.9%) and Hispanic students (    ) (2002)

UPDATE    First-to-second year persistence for African American and
              Hispanic students (Cohort 2006-67.5%, down 6.5%),
              Cohort 2005-74.3%, Cohort 2004-67.2%.  2007-2008

UPDATE    First-to-second year persistence for African American and
              Hispanic Students (Cohort 2007-77.6%, up 10.1%), Cohort
              2006-67.5%, Cohort 2005-74.3%, Cohort 2004-67.2%.

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-

UPDATE    First-to-second year persistence for African American and
              Hispanic Students
              (Cohort 2009-76.7%, up 2.9% from last year), Cohort 200
              -73.8% (revised 2008 retention rate, 77.6% was
              incorrect), Cohort 2007-77.6%, Cohort 2006-67.5%,
              Cohort 2005-74.3%, Cohort 2004-67.2%. 2010-2011

ACTION    Increase the number of Board of Governor’s Scholars (AA)

MEASURE  Number of Board of Governors Scholars

BASELINE  123 – (2003)

UPDATE     Increased the number of Board of Governor's Scholars.
               141 - 2007, down 1.4% from 2006, 143 - 2006, 122 -
               2005, 138 - 2004, 123 - 2003. (2007)

UPDATE     Increased the number of Board of Governor’s Scholars. 
146 – 2008, up 3.5% from 2007. 141 – 2007, 143 – 2006,
               122 – 2005, 138 – 2004, 123 – 2003. (2008)

UPDATE     Increased the number of Board of Governor’s Scholars.
               148– 2009, up 1.4% from 2008.  146 - 2008, 141 – 2007,
               143 – 2006, 122 – 2005, 138 – 2004, 123 – 2003. (2009)

UPDATE     Increased the number of Board of Governor’s Scholars. 
               152 - 2010, up 1.3% from 2009.  148 – 2009, 146 - 2008,
               141 - 2007, 143 - 2006, 122 - 2005, 138 – 2004, 123 –
               2003. (2010)

SRU Goal - Social, Economic, and Technological Mobility:

 Identify distinct “mobility” issues, related to the social, economic, and technological mobility of low income, underrepresented minority students and transfer students.  A college education is no longer a luxury, but a necessity to compete for entry-level positions; however, low income 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 low income 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

BASELINE   A report will be presented by the end of the 2011-2012
               academic year.

ACTION     Assist students in developing a wider geographic vision of
               employment opportunities and define a model for social,
               career networking and mentoring opportunities for low
               income students. (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 low income students.

BASELINE     To be established during the 2011-2012 academic year.


  • Slippery Rock University will strive to be affordable for eligible students from low- and middle-income families.
  • Increase the number of need-based scholarship opportunities for prospective and current students.
  • Decrease the total average debt of students at time of graduation.

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