Written By: Abhi Harikumar, Heidi Seabrooks-Smith, Alex Rodriguez
The Sorenson Impact Center MAPS project convened students from across the nation to share experiences, perspectives, and needs from their institutions. In response to major interest from this event and in an effort to continue these conversations, the MAPS project has launched the inaugural Student Coalition on Higher Education. The Student Coalition on Higher Education (SCHE) was created in 2020 with three goals: to understand student experiences, amplify student voices, and leverage student expertise. Together, the SCHE work to envision a more equitable and sustainable future within higher education.
The coalition provides young leaders with the opportunity to discuss emerging trends, engage with higher education decision makers and community leaders, and contribute to key conversations surrounding equity and inclusion.
In its first year, the Student Coalition met with industry professionals, led discussions with fellow students, and conducted research aimed at cultivating a student-equity-centric future where students’ voices are valued and integrated into institutional decision-making processes. Conversations with students from across the nation highlighted existing inequities, reports of feeling misunderstood and being excluded from their institution’s decision making process. To fill this gap, the Student Coalition created the ‘Catalyzing Student Equity in Higher Education’ Guidebook.
The Student Guidebook: Catalyzing Student Equity in Higher Education
The Guidebook profiles five programs across the nation, describing the purpose and function of each, alongside a discussion of key takeaways. Drawing from a months-long process of speaking with a diverse group of students and administrators, the Guidebook identifies important factors influencing student-equity-centricity. In doing so, the Guidebook serves as a catalyst for driving institutional change.
Now in its second year, a new cohort of SCHE members will build upon these findings. During a November 2021 MAPS convening, the Student Coalition had the opportunity to discuss barriers to student inclusion in decision-making spaces with national higher education leaders. Incorporating insights from these leaders, the Student Coalition will expand on the Guidebook through three areas of research.
First, the SCHE is conducting a landscape analysis of social services resource access points at 125 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to document the promotion of resources such as food pantries, emergency housing, and emergency financial aid resources. The HEIs were selected through random sampling and inclusive of public/private, four-year/two-year, and diverse institutions throughout the United States. Providing data on potential institutional gaps in access, availability, and awareness, the analysis exemplifies resource needs expressed by students who participated in the MAPS and ‘I Am Not A Outlier’ projects.
Second, the SCHE is gathering data on institutional leaders' perspectives to gain a greater understanding of the roles that students, administrators, and faculty play in capturing a diverse and comprehensive student voice. Through their research, they seek to gain insights on the factors influencing student engagement within institutions, informing solutions to advance student-centric-equity and empower student voices.
Finally, to best capture the student voice, the SCHE is interviewing students across the nation to assess the effectiveness of emergency resources provided by universities and inform solutions to more effectively tailor resource programs to student needs. By gathering qualitative data and amplifying student voices across the nation, this research enriches the Guidebook findings.