Colleges Must Stop ‘Student Swirl’ During Pandemic
On Tuesday, Go College! Now covered part one of Lumina Foundation’s two-part series on student swirl during the pandemic, defining the problem and discussing how it plays a part in student equity. This term applies to students – especially transferring low-income, first-generation, and BIPOC students – being bounced between programs, schools, and degrees on their path to earn their degree. Authors Haley Glover and Amber Garrison Duncan predict that higher education is likely to see more of this student swirl than usual due to the circumstances the pandemic has created, as students are relocated, take gap years, or struggle with online distance learning in traditionally on-campus programs.
Part-two of Glover and Duncan’s series pertains to changes that can be made to support students through COVID-19 in order to reduce student swirl and aid students that may already be caught in it.
Debt forgiveness programs, Glover and Duncan suggest, are one of the first ways to stop student swirl. Forgiving institutional debt can make going back to the same school an option, eliminating barriers between completing a degree and low-income students. Wayne State University in Detroit is one of the institutions leading this charge with their Warrior Way Back program, which has set an example already being emulated by other colleges in the area. Programs like this, that make a path where there was previously a barrier, open up doors for students by allowing them a way forward.
Other suggestions from Glover and Duncan at an institutional level include simplifying degree and residency requirements, allow for prior-knowledge to count towards degree progress, and ease the transfer process for both incoming and outgoing students. At a state level, Duncan and Glover suggest having designated schools where students may finish their degrees that work well with transfer students and adult learners as well as creating clear pathways through higher education with plenty of communication throughout.
Eliminating barriers that make college difficult is a great way to ensure that college stays accessible for all, and not just those with the socioeconomic know-how to already know how college works.
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