Last year the American Recovery Plan provided one of the greatest infusions of federal financial resources through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) which supported community colleges, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and other higher education institutions. HEERF funds were used by 93% of colleges to provide direct financial support to students at risk of stopping out of school. This support came in the form of emergency grants and discharging outstanding student debt or unpaid balances in an effort to keep students enrolled and moving towards degree completion. The stalling of the Build Back Better in Congress has some experts concerned that students who continue to face housing and food insecurity will not have the financial resources needed to continue their education.
This week the Hechinger Report examines institutions’ efforts to retain college students. Nationwide 45% of students graduate in four years. With decreasing application numbers and some states tying budget allocations to graduation rates, institutions have an increased interest in focusing on student retention. Florida Atlantic University has responded by creating the new position of “retention specialist” staff who are tasked with assisting students on the verge of dropping out. Other institutions are increasingly using data to identify where students struggle on the path to graduation, and many schools are examining barriers to degree completion like administrative holds to determine how those practices impede graduation.
“I had no guidance from parents. (First-generation students) literally don’t know what to expect. It’s like a fog; they’re walking blindly through something.” - Aziz Ayobi, Sophomore at Las Positas College and first-generation student
This week CalMatters College Journalism Network reports on conversations with first-generation college students about the challenges they face in higher education. “About 41% of undergraduates in the University of California system and nearly one-third of California State University students are the first in their families to attend college.” The college students interviewed want faculty and staff to understand their determination and drive, that there is an incorrect and unfair stereotype that first-generation students push a narrative that they are victimized, and that there is often an assumption that because they are able to get into college they, therefore, understand how college works.
In a recent survey conducted by TopHat, over a quarter of college students indicated that they were assigned too many different learning tools in their classes, and they struggled to navigate and use these online tools. In addition, a fifth of respondents shared that they continue to struggle with access to reliable internet.
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March 11, 2022