Diversity and Democracy

Best Practices for Supporting College Access and Success

Institutions and organizations around the country are investing time, money, and staff in investigating where educational inclusivity exists and what makes it work. The following recent reports ask: What is the higher education community doing to improve all students' access and success, and how can promising practices be applied more broadly?

Figure 1: Impact of Educationally Purposeful 
Activities on First Academic Year GPA by Precollege Achievement Level


Participation in educationally purposeful activities has been shown to have a “compensatory” effect on students’ college success and persistence. The slope of the lines in figure 1 illustrates that students with lower ACT scores experience greater gains in first-year GPA as a result of participation in high-impact practices. Source: Kuh, G. D. 2008. High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Essential Elements of Engagement: High Expectations and High Support

Reinforcing the need to couple high expectations with high levels of curricular, programmatic, institutional, and financial support, the Community College Survey of Student Engagement's 2008 summary report analyzes student and faculty survey responses to identify how community colleges can best support student success. Recognizing that community college students often face a range of challenges related to academic preparation and outside responsibilities, the report encourages readers to see these factors not as barriers or excuses, but as realities to take into consideration when planning student services. Finding that students are most engaged within the classroom, for example, the report stresses the importance of linking student services with classroom learning. With concise descriptions of best practices at colleges throughout the country, the report illustrates how schools can link assessment and action to achieve high expectations for all students. To access the report, visit www.ccsse.org/publications/2008_National_Report.pdf.

Accelerating Latino Student Success at Texas Border Institutions

In cooperation with eight Hispanic-Serving Institutions located along the Texas border,Excelencia in Education's recent brief identifies supports necessary to increase Hispanic students' enrollment and graduation rates. Recognizing that Texas has yet to meet the goals established by the state higher education authority in Closing the Gaps by 2015: The Texas Higher Education Plan, the brief calls for a concerted educational plan to close the achievement gap for Hispanic students, who currently constitute one-fifth of all public school students nationwide. The brief draws its recommendations from the successes of eight public universities and community colleges that enroll and graduate particularly high numbers of Hispanic students. It cites community orientation, intentionality, and commitment as the core of these institutions' successes and highlights such promising practices as learning communities, first- and second-year experiences, and mentoring programs for their role in increasing student success. To download the brief, visit www.edexcelencia.org/research/alass.asp.

The Science of Diversifying Science

At the Association for Institutional Research's 2008 annual meeting, researchers from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles presented a paper titled "The Science of Diversifying Science: Underrepresented Minority Experiences in Structured Research Programs." Seeking to identify programs and tactics that support students' scientific aspirations, the authors interviewed student focus groups at four institutions perceived as having undergraduate research programs that successfully support underrepresented minority students. They found that structured undergraduate research programs provide many benefits, including a sense of self-efficacy, particularly for students contending with cultural pressures such as stereotype threat. Based on these findings, the authors call for a "paradigm shift of inclusive excellence" that extends the positive aspects of scientific research into science classrooms so all students can benefit from the collaborative learning, supportive mentoring, and interactive engagement these programs entail. To download the paper, visitwww.gseis.ucla.edu/heri/publications-conf.php.

Student Aversion to Borrowing

Issued jointly by the Institute for Higher Education Policy and Excelencia in Education, this recent report explores whether greater loan availability actually translates into greater success for students. By reviewing U. S. Department of Education data and interviewing focus groups and individuals, researchers discovered a host of cultural and economic factors that may affect students' choices about where to pursue and how to finance an education. For example, the report found that Asian and Hispanic students, as well as immigrants to the United States, were typically more debt-averse than those from other groups. Students who did not borrow to cover significant financial need were more likely to use other strategies--such as enrolling part time or working full time--that tend to detrimentally affect college persistence. The report suggests the need for more outreach and support at both the high school and college levels, as well as greater communication with students about the long-term value of a college education. To download the report, visit www.ihep.org/assets/files/publications/s-z/StudentAversiontoBorrowing.pdf

Recommended Resources on Selected High-Impact Educational Practices

Jayne E. Brownell, assistant vice president for student affairs at Hofstra University, andLynn E. Swaner, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Development, C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University

First-Year Seminars

Henscheid, J. M. 2004. Integrating the first-year experience: The role of learning communities in first-year seminars (Monograph no. 39). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.www.sc.edu/fye/

Policy Center on the First Year of College. www.firstyear.org/fyi/index.html

Swing, R. L. 2002. Series of essays on the first-year initiative benchmarking study.www.sc.edu/fye/resources/assessment/essays/Swing-8.28.02.html

Learning Communities

Lardner, E., ed. 2005. Diversity, educational equity, and learning communities. Olympia, WA: The Evergreen State College, Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education.

National Study of Living-Learning Programs. www.livelearnstudy.net

Smith, B. L., J. MacGregor, R. S. Matthews, and F. Gabelnick. 2004. Learning communities: Reforming undergraduate education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Undergraduate Research

Council on Undergraduate Research. 

National Conferences on Undergraduate Research. www.ncur.org

National Science Foundation's Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP).www.nsf.gov/pubs/2009/nsf09515/nsf09515.htm

Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program.www.ed.gov/programs/triomcnair/index.html

University of California-Los Angeles Undergraduate Research Centers.www.ugeducation.ucla.edu/ugresearch/

University of Michigan Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP).www.lsa.umich.edu/urop/

Service Learning

Campus Compact. www.compact.org

Jacoby, B. 2003. Fundamentals of service-learning partnerships. In Building partnerships for service-learning, ed.B. Jacoby and Associates, 1-19. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

O'Grady, Carolyn, ed. 2000. Integrating service learning and multicultural education in colleges and universities. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Zlotkowski, Edward. 1998. Successful service-learning programs: New models of excellence in higher education. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc.

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