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Leadership and team composition are critical in developing strategies to support low-income students. Ideally, the president or provost should appoint one or two facilitators to shepherd the BFA Institutional Self-Assessment process and support the work of a cross-functional core team. The process will be more effective when led by someone in a position of influence with strong change-management skills.
Institutional leaders should identify a steering group or committee to conduct the assessment, set goals, implement approaches, evaluate progress, and manage ongoing efforts. BFA can support the work of an existing committee with whose work the BFA Self-Assessment is aligned. For example, existing cross-functional committees that support student success, equity, institutional effectiveness, or student progress and retention enhance their efforts by using BFA. If such committees do not exist, a new team can be formed.
Including professionals from a variety of offices is important to increase the usefulness of the Self-Assessment. Consider professionals such as: Vice Presidents of Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and Institutional Research; representatives from advising, financial aid, records and registration, counseling, career services, enrollment management, information technology, and special projects (TRIO, pathways); and academic deans, department chairs, and faculty. It is also important to include low-income students themselves in the process.
The BFA Self-Assessment can be completed collectively or each member can rate the items individually. What is most important is that data are shared and collaboratively explored across traditional silos. If the Self-Assessment is taken individually, the facilitator(s) should gather individual scores and identify trends or special notes.
The first step in completing the BFA Self-Assessment is to identify available and relevant quantitative and qualitative data that will build a foundation for moving the conversation forward. The purpose of the data in this approach is to inform the conversation and to provide an evidence-based foundation for faculty, staff, and administrators to leverage their deep on-the-ground subject matter expertise and develop insights about how to make improvements in practice and policy. It is not necessary to gather perfect or comprehensive data before moving forward.
The team should start with institution-specific administrative and non-administrative data sources. The following data sources can serve as additional resources for the team:
To complement quantitative data, qualitative evidence can illuminate the unique experiences of low-income students at the institution. Speaking directly to economically disadvantaged students about their daily realities and the faculty and student services professionals who work with them on a regular basis can help inform your institution’s approach to support, service delivery and policy. Sources of qualitative data can include surveys, focus groups, interviews, listening sessions, and town hall meetings.
If the team needs additional information about financial stability, the team can direct new and original research that is explicitly connected to broader student supports. By doing so, the college can more explicitly explore low-income students’ realities at the institution.
The goal of the BFA Institutional Self-Assessment Guide is to help identify areas of priority and opportunity. Remember that accurately and completely quantifying needs will help the team make sound decisions about the allocation of resources.
If an answer is unknown, identify which department or division on campus would be able to answer it. Campuses report value in using the first Self-Assessment as baseline and reviewing it again biannually.
Identify at least five action steps at your institution to address financial stability resulting from the discussion of your Self-Assessment results. These can be process steps such as identifying how a broader range of practitioners at your institution can engage with BFA, or policy changes that have implications for low-income student success; or they can be discrete steps such as creating a system to increase food security or collaborating with partners to offer on-campus services or workshops, and implementing a strategy to get student feedback about existing supports.
For each action step indicate the target student or stakeholder group, intended outcome(s), measure(s), expected challenges, lead person(s) (at least 1-2 people recommended), timeline, and any necessary resources/supports. The action planning template can be used as an example.