As everyone in the college-completion movement knows, far too many students must overcome systemic inequities in order to be successful. Too many students stop out of college to handle life’s many curveballs—such as financial strain and family or work obligations. These responsibilities are exacerbated when a global pandemic unexpectedly disrupts lives or when there is racial and social unrest. Students who are Black, Latinx, first-generation, or who come from low-income backgrounds, experience hardship at a significantly higher rate compared to their white counterparts. I think about my former students who experienced homelessness and food insecurity while attempting to persist through coursework. I also think about my former students who would wake up many hours before class to care for their families, then take multiple buses and trains to get to class on time. Fortunately, there were initiatives in place to support these students through hardships and troubling times. My heart breaks for students who do not have support and don’t know who to turn to.

As higher-education leaders, we have a moral imperative to provide the support and resources students need to be successful. We cannot continue to hold conversations about student success or equitable outcomes without considering their experiences beyond campus. And we cannot continue to discuss a student’s academic plans without considering all of the other factors that may complicate a student’s life. Higher education institutions across the nation have the resources and capacity to implement support systems for all students. But those efforts are only effective when students know what support is available and how to access it. 

Complete College America (CCA) continues to be a dedicated partner in creating conditions for states and institutions to take a holistic approach to student success. We continue to demonstrate our commitment with our long-standing partnership with NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. By ensuring equitable access to resources and support on and off campus, institutions can alleviate non-academic barriers to student success and help students focus on their education. This can be done by implementing the following strategies at scale: 

  • Active Academic Support: Provide students with programs and services to help them develop the academic skills needed to be successful.
  • Proactive Advising: Require advisors to take a preemptive approach that anticipates and helps eliminate concerns, roadblocks, and barriers affecting student success. Through strategic and consistent outreach, ensure advisors are a resource for students, working with them to create an academic plan for a timely graduation, identifying appropriate resources on campus and in the community, and building a solid academic and social foundation. 
  • 360° Coaching: Provide students with a designated coach to contact whenever issues arise in and outside of the classroom. Train coaches to work with students to find answers, identify appropriate resources, and advocate or intervene on their behalf.
  • Student Basic Needs Support: Ensure that students have access to food, housing, childcare, physical and mental health services, financial assistance, and transportation

I challenge you to think about what your students are experiencing beyond the classroom and how that impacts their ability to be successful. I challenge you to Identify concrete action items to implement at your institution or state to address the myriad roadblocks to student success. Here are a few steps to get you started:

  • Adjust hours to accommodate individuals who work full-time
  • Create and distribute a directory of resources, on and off campus, for students, faculty, and staff
  • Eliminate stigma about seeking assistance and using campus resources
  • Review all policies with an equity-minded lens and make appropriate amendments
  • Use emergency funds to cover basic needs and resources for students



What is Student Support (Re)defined?
Association of American Colleges & Universities

Shifting the View from Dropout to Stopout
Cory Rusin, for Evolllution

College and University Basic Needs Insecurity: A National #RealCollege Survey Report

We’re in This Together: Resources to help Inland Empire students make a successful transition to college amidst COVID-19.
IE Students

Are Higher Education Institutions Failing their BIPOC?
Mahlet Sugebo, Complete College America


Guiding Questions 

  • How do we keep the focus on college completion, amidst a pandemic, social unrest, and a contentious presidential election?
  • Colleges and universities often offer specialized programming for Black, Latinx, and indegenous students, particularly at predominantly white institutions, that moves these students to the margins. How can colleges and universities center these students in their systems and structures? 
  • What challenges could you see for institutions, systems, and states when it comes to helping students gain equitable access to Support?
  • What ideas or best practices have you identified to ensure students have equitable access to Support?


With Equity & Justice For All

Did you miss our virtual event? We’ve added recordings of every session to our website, so you catch any that you missed, revisit those you loved, and share favorites with your colleagues.