April 2, 2020

How Colleges and Universities Can Better Sustain Students of Color and Historically Underserved Students

Designing Experiences

By Elliot Felix and Maggie Walsh

Read how these two students describe how they found community at their universities:

“I didn’t have to build community at school. It fell into place. I did not have to make conscious efforts. It was very natural.”

“Commuting shuts you out from student life a bit… I’m only on campus to do coursework and didn’t really meet anyone outside my major.” 

These differences in community are just one aspect of how many colleges and universities are set up for so-called “traditional” students like this first student: 18-to-21-year-old, middle- and upper-class students attending full-time, living and learning on-campus, and guided by advice from family and friends who went to college before them. 

However, if you are commuting like the second student – or are the first in your family to go to college, a veteran, a parent, a student with a disability, a low-income student, are transgender, or any number of other characteristics – you may find less support and find it harder to succeed in a system that was not designed with you in mind. These are the students we categorize as “Underserved.” If you are a Student of Color, many of these differences in how you are supported become even more pronounced.

Students are becoming more diverse in all senses of the word, technology is changing how students learn and access support services, and both institutions and students face financial pressures. As institutions respond to demographic, technological, and socioeconomic changes, they have an opportunity to better support Students of Color and Underserved Students with specific needs. 

In this whitepaper, brightspot and Aviary Analytics use data from brightspot’s Student Experience Snapshot to identify insights and make recommendations which we hope will enable colleges and universities to transform their programs, places, and people to better support these students. (For clarity, we capitalize and italicize these two student segments as well as the sections of our Snapshot survey.)

Fill out the form below to learn how to better support Students of Color and Underserved Students at your institution.