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A New Data Dashboard Is Poised to Help Colleges Retain More Students

The Crimsonbridge Foundation interviewed our community partner, The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice this month to learn more about how they are working to address students’ unmet basic needs and build capacity for higher education in 2022.

Q: Why do data on student basic needs matter for colleges and their students? And how do they connect to The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice’s mission?

A: Colleges and universities across the country are looking for ways to support their students during the pandemic. Since our founding in 2013, The Hope Center has been working to raise awareness of all of the challenges and complexities students face outside of the classroom that ultimately impacts their success within it. We’ve partnered with hundreds of colleges to survey their students about their basic needs, covering issues like food, housing, childcare, mental health, and more. We’ve also conducted randomized control trials to evaluate promising interventions and worked closely with faculty and staff to have them assess their own basic needs ecosystems.

Our goals in the early days of this evidence-driven work primarily centered on driving awareness of the sheer magnitude of unmet student basic needs, like the fact that nearly three in five college students don’t have enough food to eat or a stable place to live. While there is certainly more work to be done to amplify awareness of these issues, we are really proud of the ways that our work has already spurred change at institutional, state, and federal levels. Just last month, for example, the Biden-Harris administration announced substantial new federal investments and guidance towards supporting students with their basic needs. And on a local level, we frequently see our data driving awareness and institutional transformation.

Now we are turning even greater attention towards helping institutions identify responsive services and systems, develop targeted outreach strategies, and advocate for additional resources. Our new data dashboard will allow institutions to do all of this more efficiently and effectively.

Q: How do you hope colleges will use the new data dashboard?

A: We expect that the data dashboard will dramatically increase the speed with which our partners can receive student and institutional data from us, and during the pandemic when contexts and decisions are evolving so rapidly, this turnaround time is key. We also want to support our partners in identifying equity gaps in basic needs insecurity and use of support services. There are often significant differences across student demographics and identities – for example, there is a sixteen percentage point gap between Black and white student basic needs insecurity – and the dashboard will allow our partners to drill down into the data to uncover these differences and drive change with a focus on equitable outcomes.

Q: What opportunities do you see for others to support this work in the future?

A: Right now, with the Crimsonbridge Foundation’s generous support, we’re working with a small group of colleges to pilot a prototype of the dashboard. This diverse group includes research universities and community colleges alike, and is represented by professionals in a range of different departments and roles. I’m so excited to see what we learn with them over the next few months. (Stay tuned for announcements on our social channels – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – and on our website!)

Looking a little further out, we hope to offer the tool to all of our college and university partners and pair it with learning communities of practice, coaching, and other technical assistance. It’s evident that this combination of approaches, with a focus on research and practice, is needed for driving positive student outcomes. There’s too much at stake for our students and institutions for a tool like this – accompanied by planning and advocacy activities – not to exist.

Christine Wolff-Eisenberg is a Senior Learning Specialist at The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice.


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