May 12, 2017
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This article by Roger Riddell originally appeared on Education Dive

A panel of thought leaders at ASU+GSV tackled issues ranging from who’s to blame for failure to the rising cost of tuition

In a Monday morning session at the ASU+GSV Summit in Salt Lake City, a panel of thought leaders discussed how to expand access and success, particularly among low-income, first-generation and underrepresented student populations.

Moderated by University Innovation Alliance Executive Director Bridget Burns, “Building On-Ramps to Higher Ed Success” saw Strada Education Network Vice President of Analytics Carlo Salerno, University of Rochester Dean of College Admission and Vice Provost for Enrollment Initiatives Jonathan Burdick, National Louis University President Nivine Megahed, and Learning House President and CEO Todd Zipper tackle issues ranging from who should take the blame for student failures to the rising cost of tuition. Below are three key takeaways.

Is failure the student’s fault or the institution’s?

Burns asked whose fault it is if a student is admitted and then they drop out, citing stats that say about half of students are being failed by their institutions. Megahed and Salerno each responded that there is responsibility on both sides. For as much talk as there is of making sure students are “college-ready,” Megahed said it’s important, too, that colleges and universities think of themselves as being “student-ready.”

“If an institution is ‘student-ready,’ you can really try to address a lot of the things that happen that end up being a result of the institution not supporting the student appropriately,” Megahed said. “I think in some situations, there’s just a lot of life circumstances you cannot overcome. But my point is, as an institution, you can only control what you can control. If you control ‘student-ready’ as an institution, and you’re doing what you can to support this population, you’re gonna get a lot more students through than you’re currently getting through.”

For Salerno, it all comes down to the responsibility of any service provider to use the resources at their disposal — analytics in higher ed, for example — to ensure customers’ needs are served.

“We can talk about ‘failing’ institutions or are institutions failing their students, but we have to ask ourselves some basic fundamental questions,” he said. “For example, what college says, ‘You know, I want to enroll 2,000 students, and I’m going to let 50% of them drop out?’”

Among the resulting issues, he said that institution then has to consider that 50% will likely leave the institution, not contribute to positive public perception of the institution, and likely would have student loans they then would not be able to pay back.

Ultimately, colleges and universities should use data at their disposal to solve immediately identifiable problems while working to understand other issues that students from underserved populations might face. One example that has been pointed out before is an unexpected expense such as a sudden car repair, which can derail the path to completion as the student has to choose between working more hours to make ends meet, or continuing their education.