The Equity Issues in Higher Education

Earning a college degree is challenging. For those individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly those who are first-generation college students, the barriers are even greater. Just trying to navigate the complex nature of higher education can be overwhelming. 

With little to no support from home, these students often struggle trying to connect with the right person at the right time and persisting through the process. Busy signals, delays waiting for email or voicemail replies, unnecessary drives to campus, inconvenient hours of operation — all hinder students from getting the support services they need when they need it. Unfortunately, too many of these students reach a give-up point — some during the enrollment process itself! — and they fall through the cracks.

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Education show that first-generation college students “lag behind their continuing-generation peers on a variety of measures of persistence and attainment.” The study found that within three years of enrolling in postsecondary education, 33% of first-generation college students had left without completing a degree. Additionally, in an analysis of data from the Federal Reserve Board, the Pew Research Center found that only 26% of first-generation college students ages 22 – 59 earn a bachelor’s degree compared to 70% of students who have at least one parent who graduated from college. 

A Pathway to Equity in Higher Education

The reasons first-generation college students have a lower success rate are complex, but it’s clear that institutional support as well as equitable access to academic support services make a difference. The Center for First-Generation Student Success reports that the data shows that at institutions where there are dedicated support mechanisms for first-generation college students, there have been “positive results on multiple facets of student success including belonging, performance, persistence, and completion.” 

In The Chronicle of Higher Education’s “How to Help First-Generation Students Succeed,” one dominant theme to emerge is the necessity of intentionality — that is, actively identifying these students and then providing them with the support and guidance they need to be successful. Too often these students become bewildered trying to navigate the higher education landscape and grow discouraged, but there are programs that help. The U.S. Department of Education’s TRIO Programs are designed specifically to identify and provide support for historically disadvantaged student populations such as first-generation college students, low-income individuals, and individuals with disabilities. 

One ConexED partner, Mission College, leverages our platform to help connect with TRIO students when they need assistance. The reality of today’s modern campus is that staff and students are not always in the same place at the same time, yet academic support is still necessary. Utilizing the ConexED “Knock on Door” feature, Mission College’s TRIO students can instantaneously make that all-important human connection possible at the moment they need the help.

Mission College isn’t the only ConexED partner to use the platform to support its TRIO students. In 2021 our partner institutions used ConexED to support over 205,000 of their TRIO students, which included over 276,000 instantaneous chats and almost 608,000 meetings–important touch points for pathways to student success.

Student Success Is Everyone’s Success

ConexED removes roadblocks to critical student support services like enrollment, advising, financial aid, tutoring, and office hours. Imagine a first-year, first-generation student trying to navigate the enrollment process or get assistance with financial aid. What happens when this student can’t connect with a person via the website and then calls an office but is routed to voicemail? Many first-generation college students work and may not be able to make the drive to campus, yet they still need help. Some of these students quickly become discouraged and give up. They don’t complete the enrollment process, or they drop out of school. Now imagine this same student being able to knock on the virtual door of a real person and immediately make a connection. ConexED offers high-touch communication on any device, and being able to make a human connection is often the difference between making it to graduation or falling short.

Student success is everyone’s success, and ConexED fills those gaps so that students don’t fall through the cracks.