Building Equity by Supporting the Whole Student

Findings from Case Studies of Two Colleges in the Working Students Success Network

Posted November 30, 2020
By Mathematica and Insight Center for Community Economic Development
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This report focuses on case studies of two community colleges and their efforts to build and support equity for students from historically underserved groups. Both institutions were part of the Working Students Success Network (WSSN), an effort spanning 19 colleges in four states that aimed to help low-income working students succeed.

Broadly speaking, the WSSN strategy emphasizes institutional culture change as well as integrated and holistic services and supports across three pillars: 1) employment and career advancement; 2) income and work supports; and 3) financial services and asset building.

Site visits and interviews with students and employees informed the case studies and indicate that both schools faced challenges in developing a common, informed understanding of equity. This research also revealed several important considerations for colleges, funders, and other stakeholders who may be interested in using holistic supports to promote equity in postsecondary education.

Findings & Stats

Statements & Quotations

Key Takeaway

In the higher education landscape, promoting diversity isn’t enough

To advance an equity agenda, postsecondary stakeholders — including colleges, funders and other partners — must develop a shared, overarching equity framework that acknowledges how different student populations need different supports to achieve the same level of success. Institutional strategies that align with this framework should take a whole-learner approach and integrate student voices, caring individuals and culturally responsive programs.