Research group applauds University’s disability services, women’s resources

Jahci Perry-Richardson, Staff Reporter

Case Western Reserve University does not just boast a physical on-campus presence, but an online presence as well. With 14 master’s programs and two certificates available for completion in a variety of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects, CWRU provides a learning environment worthy of recognition from the SR Education Group for its user-friendliness for students with disabilities and its support for, and representation of, women in STEM.

The SR Education Group’s scores were computed with an algorithm which took into consideration many factors, including the depth of resources available and the variety of services provided for students’ various needs.

“In today’s education landscape, obtaining further education for career advancement is a huge commitment for most people, due to time, lifestyle and budget constraints,” SR Education Group Marketing Manager Nicole Hopler said. “There is a tremendous amount of information and misinformation regarding colleges, universities, vocational and online schools, making it difficult for students to find the right program and differentiate between what is accurate and credible.”

Hopler said the group’s mission is to hold online authority in helping students make the best decision possible based on their career goals, personal needs and financial status.

She explained that data used to determine the Disability-Friendly score is collected from schools’ official websites, the College Board school database and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Institutions involved in the rankings receive higher scores from the SR Education Group based on the services available for people who have hearing, speech and other disabilities that impair learning. Higher scores were distributed under the condition that the online education system provides contact information for faculty, fully details the services available to students, addresses frequently asked questions comments and concerns and has a multitude of resources available for student use.

If faculty members receive training to accommodate the given institutions’ policies towards students with disabilities, then they received higher scores as well. The SR Education Group calls this factor the Universal Design of Learning Training and considers it “the gold standard for ensuring accessible learning experiences.”

“While faculty training does not ensure that these principles are implemented,” the Guide to Online School’s websites states, “it is an indicator that the school is aware of issues regarding accessibility and is working to improve learning environments.”

This year, the SR Education Group also ranked 76 schools as the best online schools for women pursuing STEM careers because of the various universities’ support networks for women in STEM. CWRU received a score of 86.86 out of 100 and, according to the Guide to Online Schools website published by the SR Education Group, ranked sixth in the category of “Best Online Schools Supporting Women in STEM.”

Women are drastically underrepresented in STEM fields despite composing almost half of the workforce in the United States.

An algorithm was used to pinpoint and weigh online schooling across a variety of areas related to women in STEM, including the actual percentage of STEM graduates who identify as women, the support services for women in STEM and the actual quantity and variety of online degrees offered in STEM.

The SR Education Group used the American Society for Engineering Education to determine the percentage of women who graduate with degrees in STEM, and those who had higher proportions received a higher score in this category. Other resources used to determine the STEM-friendly scores of the colleges and universities involved with the Guide to Online Schools website included data gathered from the NCES.

The SR Education Group was founded in 2004 and, according to their press release this past June, the group is “a leading education research publisher.”

CWRU is featured in the rankings of online universities in two of the five total categories evaluated by the SR Education Group for the Guide to Online Schools’ website and the Online U website. The other three rankings which CWRU was not incluced in are support for LGBTQ students, support for students of Christian faith and support for students pursuing improvement of their economic statuses.

Based on June’s public relations report, the SR Education Group compiles education data and then publishes rankings with the intention of giving degree-seeking students access to information about what “best suits their budget and career aspirations.”

The press release also stated, “[The] SR Education Group is passionate about making quality education attainable for everyone and believes that objective information about education, careers and educational financing should be free and easily accessible.”

Therefore, the SR Education Group offers many scholarships to individuals seeking, or currently pursuing, higher education and grants more than $250,000 in need-based scholarships every year.

According to their website, “[The] SR Education Group [is] motivated by a singular vision: a world where everyone gets the education he or she needs to be successful.”

More information on the scholarships available and applications can be found on the SR Education Group’s website.