- An EdSurge editorial from University Innovation Alliance Executive Director Bridget Burns asserts that higher education wasn't designed to help students succeed — and not only that, she says, most college leaders don't have the time to step back and reassess how well they are or aren't serving students, especially those from low-income backgrounds.
- Burns shares three specific areas of focus to help institution leaders re-design the way they approach the job, encouraging leaders to leverage the power of networks and increase collaboration to drive success. Her first recommendation is to streamline student service resources like financial aid, registration and academic support to make these areas more accessible to students.
- Next, schools are encouraged to plan better and communicate across departments in order to reduce administrative workload and increase innovations in student intervention infrastructure. And sharing best practices as well as failures with peer institutions to scale strategies like proactive advising, predictive analytics and retention grants can account for some of the time needed to plan solutions — time that is missing from administrators' plates as the demands on them swell.
The University Innovation Alliance is a group of 11 major public research universities working to boost student achievement, in the form of increased graduation rates among low-income and underrepresented student groups. The member schools share best practices in educational attainment and projects that it will produce more than 94,000 additional degrees within a 10-year target window.
Improving prospects for low-income students is a growing necessity for colleges looking to make enrollment sustainable and grow appeal among a broad cross-section of potential students and supporters. The institutions in the Alliance have the benefit of its membership being comprised of larger than life branding through athletics, research and community presence; but its work should be the focus of smaller schools which are mission mandated to serve underrepresented students, and to create pathways for success.
But how can schools avoid the common trap of inviting underrepresented students to campus, only to leave them without support and with a lot of social and academic anxiety? It is a question many schools are wrestling to answer in the growing demand from students for cultural safe space, and with growing statistics showing how much support vulnerable student groups actually need to succeed.
The challenge is for schools to start with moderate pilot programs that allow students, faculty and community to acclimate to new groups of students and adjust to meeting their holistic needs as campus community members. The University of Maryland Baltimore County's Meyerhoff Scholars program is one which has earned national attention and gained its publicity through attracting a reasonably-sized annual cohort of minority students who received support and mentoring, along with comfort within the campus environment, to match their funding.