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This is Part 2 of a two-part series on transfer students and inequities faced by students of color during the pandemic.
As we discussed in our first blog post on “student swirl,” the reality that is starting to emerge is that many of today’s students’ educational journeys are changing as childcare, school openings, and jobs are still uncertain. And just as we historically have seen, this challenging reality is more prevalent among students of color. Furthermore, a recent report found that public flagship institutions, often states’ best-resourced institutions, are not affordable or accessible for learners of color and students from low-income families. We need to ensure that struggling students, especially those seeking transfers or at risk for stopping out, have the support, guidance, and safety nets they need to thrive.
As students struggle to keep learning amid the COVID-19 crisis, economic turmoil, and social uprisings, some schools are leading the way. Detroit’s Wayne State University is one of them. Its Warrior Way Back program forgives institutional debt for students who re-enroll.
This innovative program replaces a broad practice of refusing to release transcripts for students with unpaid loans. The ‘Warrior’ program benefits not only students but also colleges that see strong financial returns and improved student outcomes. Now, this debt-forgiveness program is expanding across Detroit’s higher education landscape and into dozens of institutions nationwide.
This is just one way to help students stay on track as our nation struggles with the pandemic, high unemployment, and persistent racial injustice. “Student swirl” and transfers between schools and programs will increase, as needs and circumstances change.
None of these goals can be met without an urgent, laser-like focus on racial equity. At the heart of our mission is eliminating unfair, unjust, and unequal outcomes for Black, Hispanic, and Native American learners who have historically been left behind.
None of the approaches we identify below sacrifice learning or quality in a bid to increase the attainment of credentials. What these strategies do is put students first—especially those who have been poorly served by higher education. Now, as we work to heal a divided nation, it’s time to right these wrongs, remove barriers, and help future generations succeed through the power of learning.
Here are some practices and policy suggestions for helping students succeed during times of crisis and beyond.
“Any college student could become a transfer student due to the unpredictability of our times. Thus, it becomes crucially important for the higher education community to understand students’ rapidly evolving needs and ensure equitable student outcomes are a top priority.”
– Bragg, Wetzstein, Meza & Yeh