Winston-Salem State University has been selected by the Foundation for Student Success to mentor three universities seeking to improve equity gaps among their black, Latino, and American Indian students. WSSU is one of seven participating in the mentorship program, and each mentor institution is paired with three mentees. WSSU will provide support to Savannah State University, Langston University and University of Michigan-Flint.
Staff from those universities visited WSSU in April to start the process of understanding how WSSU managed its journey of institutional transformation that resulted in better success for students. Mentorship will continue through 2017 and into 2018 with periodic conference calls and consultations as the mentee schools draft equity plans. Over the course of the two-year project, case studies will be developed highlighting the activities that resulted in increased success for targeted students. In 2018, the mentor and mentee institutions will be featured in webinars on student success for the general higher education community.
WSSU’s trend of improved outcomes for its students has put it on the national radar. In February, WSSU was selected as a CollegeNET Social Mobility Innovator in recognition of its strong culture of engagement for students. The university’s one-week orientation for first-year students includes mentoring, advising, and social and cultural activities designed to introduce students to college life and prepare them for rigorous academics. As part of orientation, students are introduced to a state-of-the-art Student Success Center, which offers advising, tutoring, and career counseling under one roof.
WSSU also recognizes that finances often become a barrier for college completion. Often unforeseen financial and family circumstances force students to put their educations on pause. Gap-funding scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $1,500 can help students remain in college despite financial setbacks. Because of these and other measures, WSSU ranks first among all seventeen University of North Carolina campuses with 79 percent of its students employed six months after graduation. First-year retention rates have risen from 68 percent in 2006 to 76 percent in 2015. Meanwhile, the six-year graduation rate has risen from 31.7 percent for the cohort entering in 2006 to 41.2 percent for those entering in 2011.
Further, by ensuring that curriculum has a clear path and by providing robust advising, the university has reduced the average number of credit hours a student attempts from 137 to 128 since 2013.