Equity Now | Higher education gamma
American higher education is a jumble of glaring contradictions.
- Often touted as engines of opportunity and upward social mobility, American colleges and universities are also among the most stratified institutions in American society, differing radically in terms of resources, student-faculty ratios, and selectivity in admissions. .
- Despite regular and repeated denunciations of racism and racial disparities from administrators and faculty members, few selective institutions enroll a student body representative of the demographics of the college-age population, black students, Latin students. and from disadvantaged backgrounds being concentrated in the least selective regions, the least resourced establishments.
- Higher education faculty rank among the more politically liberal segments of the American population, but faculty are also extremely status-conscious and differentiate themselves strongly in salary, job security, workload. teaching, research opportunities and prestige.
- While teaching and mentoring are at the heart of a teacher’s responsibilities, most faculty members do not receive any formal instruction in pedagogy, are not required to undergo professional development training, and in many institutions , are not well rewarded for high quality education. or to guide and motivate students or provide emotional support or serve as role models.
I could go on.
- Even though the majority of undergraduates start at a community college and aspire to a bachelor’s degree, and even though 4-year schools would benefit from an influx of new students, barriers to transfer student success, including delays in credit assessment, transfer credits refused or accepted only as an elective course, and inequalities in the allocation of financial aid persist, and 4-year institutions generally fail to recruit transfer students or their provide sufficient post-registration educational or social integration support.
- It’s no surprise that many selective private colleges focus their recruiting efforts on affluent, predominantly white, often private high schools. But it’s astonishing that many public flagships visit more out-of-state high schools than in-state ones, and also focus on wealthy, predominantly white high schools, with an emphasis on private schools.
- Despite an increased emphasis on retention and completion, nearly two-fifths of all students who start in 2- or 4-year schools do not graduate within six years. While this partly reflects the situation of students, it also reflects institutional policies that conflict with the realities of many students’ lives.
- Many nonprofits behave like for-profit businesses when offering professional master’s degree programs in person or online, viewing these programs as profit centers, regardless of student loans versus average after-income earnings. ‘Graduation.
Then there are other types of tensions that beset American higher education:
- Most obvious is the tension between a more professional, technical or pre-professional program and one that emphasizes the liberal arts.
- Then there is the tendency for women and men to gravitate towards different majors. To what extent should institutions consciously reject this entrenched model?
- There is also the tension between higher education’s long-standing commitment to shared governance and the reality that many key decisions are made outside of this framework.
But of all the glaring contradictions of higher education, perhaps the most disturbing lies in the gaps in the educational experience that undergraduates receive based on class and race and which contribute to stark differences. in completion rates and employment after graduation.
Students at high-access institutions have much less access to counseling, counseling, support, and high-impact practices that promote student engagement and deep learning. They are also much less likely to interact with a full professor who is also a publishing researcher or to participate in extracurricular and extracurricular activities that do so much to provide networking and leadership opportunities, open doors to careers, promote a sense of dedication. belonging and contribute to psychological well-being and cultural enrichment.
In other words, it’s not just K-12 schools that reflect and reinforce inequalities in society. Our sector too.
The contradictions of higher education stem less from hypocrisy than from the functioning of the competitive market, which rewards institutions very unevenly and creates incentives contrary to the self-proclaimed democratic mission of colleges and universities.
Our institutions strive for prestige, rankings, income and grants, which is why more selective institutions fail to enroll more non-traditional students. Faculty members pursue professional validation. We live in a market society, and it should come as no surprise that market considerations guide decision making at the institutional and personal levels.
So what should broad-access institutions that serve most students do?
First, what they shouldn’t be doing. As much as possible, they should not withdraw from the goal of providing high-quality, highly accessible, affordable education, for example, by reducing their curriculum.
In addition, although they may supplement course offerings with short-term training and certification programs, faculty and accreditations should recognize that the results of these programs are mixed and that an associate’s degree and in especially a bachelor’s degree offers a lot more traction in the job market.
So what’s the answer? More equity in resources would certainly help, and I certainly support that.
But rather than wait for the windfall to fall from the sky, I urge these campuses to borrow from the best.
There are many institutions that exceed their weight. Despite resource constraints, some colleges and universities allow disproportionate numbers of Black, Latin, and Pell Grant students to succeed.
What are these institutions doing that others are not doing? These pioneering institutions:
- Take the onboarding of new students very seriously, offer immersion programs before the start of classes to create a sense of belonging, introduce students to the facilities, services and academic expectations of the campus, and provide each student with an advisor and a study plan. Some campuses make a point of reaching out to parents and extended family and encouraging them to participate in orientation programs, recognizing that knowledgeable parents can contribute to student success throughout the academic journey. .
- Award course credits or certificates to students who participate in a student success or college introductory program to develop study skills, learn about campus services, and help with academic and career planning.
- Enroll incoming students in thematic meta majors, course clusters or cohorts to facilitate course enrollment, create a sense of community, and open windows to possible majors and careers.
- Organize course offerings around time slots, which allows students to consolidate their classes in the morning, afternoon or evening, facilitating the balance between academic, professional and care responsibilities.
- Use the data to track student progress and drive retention. Early warnings trigger action when students are on track, slow their momentum, or change specialization. The monitoring of waiting lists optimizes the scheduling of lessons. The identification of high DFW courses highlights program bottlenecks.
- Reduce lost credit hours by coordinating counseling and aligning programs between 2-4 year institutions.
- Replace remedial courses with co-required remedial courses, align math requirements with particular majors, and use high-impact practices to increase student engagement, enrich academic experience, develop marketable skills, and give students have the opportunity to apply learning in authentic contexts.
- Emphasize authentic learning, integrating research and career preparation into the curriculum and offering clinical, studio and field lessons.
- Deploy graduation janitors to work with students approaching graduation to help them meet all degree requirements.
The competitive market has served some institutions well, providing them with the students deemed to be the most talented and the resources to serve them well. But other colleges and universities, those responsible for educating most undergraduates – those most in need of guidance, mentorship, and high-impact practices – are not the beneficiaries of the market. .
If these students are to prosper, our small colleges, regional universities, and urban institutions cannot wait for Washington, state legislatures, foundations or philanthropists to come to the rescue. And even if a savior miraculously happens, these institutions still need a strategy to help these students realize their God-given potential.
Six decades ago, in a thriving oratory, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of “the fierce urgency of the present.” “Now is not the time for apathy or complacency,” he said. “Now is the time for vigorous and positive action.”
Take his banner. For our students, there is “such a thing as being too late”. Now is the time to take the steps that will bring much more to academic and post-graduation success.
Steven Mintz is professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin.