This blog post is adapted from a recently recorded webinar with panelists Radell Nared Jr, Associate Director of Access, Inclusion and Diversity at The University of Nebraska - Lincoln; Michael Wade, Associate Director of Diversity, Access and Inclusion at The University of South Carolina and Lyquaia Purcell, Senior Partner Advisor at RaiseMe. You can view a recording of the full presentation here.
Now more than ever, college and university leaders need to address racial inequities and social injustice on campus and in the enrollment process. That means finding tools, solutions, and strategies that will support institutional commitments to equity and diversity.
Why Higher Education Needs To Focus On Diversity Now
Research shows that diversity on college campuses affects students’ academic and social experiences and has a direct impact on their futures. When your institution makes diversity a priority, you set the groundwork to:
Enrich The Educational Experience
Better Prepare Students for the Workforce
Diversity on college campuses has been shown to improve cultural engagement, motivation, citizenship, and academic skills such as critical thinking and problem solving for students of all backgrounds, not just those who belong to underrepresented minorities.
Beyond the tangible benefits of diversity for academic and cultural outcomes, it’s something that students are seeking from higher ed institutions. “Research suggests that college students generally support having racially diverse campuses…. And that support crosses different ethnicities, genders, socioeconomic status and even partisan affiliations.” - Carey, Clayton and Horiuchi, Campus Diversity: The Hidden Consensus.
We now know that financial barriers are the number one reason students drop out of college, or choose not to enroll at all. While these barriers impact students from all backgrounds, they do hit minority and first-generation students harder than others.
Recruiting Underrepresented Student Groups
While some colleges and universities already maintain dedicated staff working on diversity initiatives, others are taking beginning steps to build a community that better reflects the wider communities they serve. Building a framework that effectively empowers an institution to attract and cultivate a more diverse applicant pool starts with planning. During the webinar, our guest panelists offered advice for laying the groundwork in diversity student recruiting, which can also help you make the case for budget and staffing to meet diversity goals:
Identify Key Student Population Groups. This is the first step in working to create broader, measurable goals around student diversity. Working within your own department and with campus leadership, you need to identify the underrepresented student populations your institution wants to recruit. Having this data will empower your institution to put dedicated leaders in place and begin to create action plans around outreach to these students.
Look for Opportunities in The Data. Once you have identified the student populations you wish to reach, review trends over the past 5 - 10 years within those populations at your institution to identify areas of opportunity. For instance, are many of the students coming from the same high school districts? Are they transferring in from community colleges? Are they joining certain clubs on campus in high numbers? Look at peer institution analyses as well to understand how they are interacting with these underrepresented groups.
Create a Strategic Plan. Working with the right stakeholders to create a strategic plan is a critical factor of long-term success. It’s an important advocacy document that can provide your team necessary agency to work towards diversity goals. It’s crucial that this plan is vetted and deemed a priority by campus leaders and includes a timeline, so it doesn’t become one of those “nice to have” programs that sits on a back shelf.
Show Your Work. A key part of securing more budgetary or staff resources for diversity work is showing decision makers the demand placed on your position. This includes sharing comprehensive reports of the number of visits you are going on (virtual or in-person), outreach to community-based organizations, and amount of students your events and efforts have reached. This data gives you evidence to show how much more impactful your institution's diversity outreach efforts could be with greater support.
Diversity Is a Long-Term Commitment
Although diversity has come further into the national spotlight recently, it’s a necessity in higher education that isn’t going anywhere soon. Colleges and universities seeking to recruit more diverse classes need to be prepared to play the long game to set themselves up for success.
Contact CampusLogic’s RaiseMe Enrollment team to learn about how we work with institutions to connect them with more diverse student groups. Our platform helps colleges and universities achieve their enrollment, diversity, and retention goals by nudging students towards academic preparedness and financial literacy.