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Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab gave a presentation on equity and barriers in higher education at North Lake College's 2019 Professional Development Day. The presentation can be viewed below.
The introduction by Dr. Christa Slejko begins at 3:55 and Dr. Goldrick-Rab takes the stage at 9:40.
Christa Slejko: Hello. We're going to start in just about 2 or 3 minutes because we are simulcasting to other sites. We are going to really start on time so if your friends are in the hall or if you need to move around here's your chance to do it, we'll get started in just a minute. All right. Good morning. Can everybody hear me? No? Am I on? Oh, That's better
Good morning, North Lake College and many, many others. Our guest today immediately came in this room and said "Wow everybody's sitting in the back!" (laugh) I said, "Yeah that's pretty much what we do." So, as our colleagues come in we'll have to push them to the front. Anyway, welcome to Professional Development Day I have a great day planned in keeping with OUR theme at North Lake and around the system we're going to be talking a lot about equity and social justice. And we have an awesome guest, which I'll tell you about in just a minute. A couple of just quick housekeeping things: We have at least 4 other locations across the Dallas County Community College District simulcasting along with us today so we welcome our friends at other sites today and we are videoing this presentation so that those that are doing other activities today will have a chance to catch up. We will have a significant portion of our time for questions as many as Sarah can tolerate but we're going to use Slido; we've been using this tool to submit your questions. You can do that at any point and then she'll be ready to take those at the end, and I believe it doesn't matter whether you're in this room or you're at another site -you can access this site and send questions.
As I said today, we're going to be talking about social justice and equity and we're starting the morning with a great guest. Right before I bring her up, I want to show you something as we talk about equity and I've been using slides like this quite a bit over the last year or so to help us have a picture in our head about what equity means. Now, this is a newer I would say an evolution of this conversation; we've spent some time talking about the difference between equality and equity. So, historically we've been about the mission of making sure everyone had the same chance about equality and now we're recognizing that that's not getting the job done.
So, in an equity conversation you have to adjust the supports, the services, the care, the compassion, the outreach to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to succeed regardless of what their particular situation, their starting point. Well, I really love this evolution the last picture that shows that the fence is just gone you've just knocked it down. And I really love that because that is the kind of thing that Sara Goldrick-Rab will be talking about today and you're starting to see initiatives across the Dallas County Community College District that are designed for this. So when we updated our DART pass programs so every student could access that rather than you have to come ask for it if you qualify this way – also our food pantry work our partnership with the North Texas Food Bank, the Promise Program.
They're about knocking the whole fence down so that everybody has access because one of the things that I've been studying this, and you will immediately recognize this, is people don't necessarily want to raise their hand. We say, "Hey, we got this extra help for you, just let us know." Well, you know...some people are bold and will come look for help but a lot of people don't want to single themselves out. So, this approach, I think, is really, really helpful when we can do big, bold actions. So, perfect segue into our guest.
We have Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab with us today. I've got her formal bio, and then I have a couple of interesting comments I just want to make. She doesn't want me to do this! But she is a professor of Higher Education Policy and Sociology at Temple University. She's also - and very well known as founder of the Hope Center for College Community and Justice located in Philadelphia that started out and is now part of the Wisconsin Hope Lab, and that's where we started picking up her research. She's best known for her innovative research on food and housing insecurity in higher ed. She's led 3 of the largest national studies on this subject, so she's talked to a lot of people and has processed a lot of data around this.
In 2016, Politico magazine named her one of the Top 50 People Shaping American Politics. That's a pretty big statement. Her latest book: "Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream" came out in 2016, an Amazon bestseller, and in 2018 won the Grawemeyer Award, and she's been featured on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. That's an interesting coincidence because at North Lake College, our Common Book is Trevor Noah's "Born a Crime" The Chronicle of Higher Ed calls her a defender of impoverished students and a scholar of their struggles. And in April 2018, the Carnegie Corporation awarded her the Carnegie Fellowship. She is a feisty defender of students' needs, and it's a crusade for her. If you follow her on social media, she is not shy about calling things out and pointing out things.
And so, she is a wonderful advocate and a champion for our students and I'm excited--she's been everywhere around the country, at every national association, annual meeting. So I'm so excited we could get her here today. Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab
Sara Goldrick-Rab: I really am tempted to make you move up front the way I would make my students move up front, but that's okay. Maybe you'll want to as we get closer! All right, so, it's really great to be here. I really can't tell you how much I appreciate being on a campus where a president will introduce me with that slide. I hope you all have really taken a good look at it. Because this is pretty radical I mean, for the last, I'd say 50+ years, we've had a financial aid system that operates around the principle of the middle part of that slide. I'm gonna be talking about that a lot today, so I just want you to think about that for a second, right?
The 2nd slide is the principle of financial aid that we've all been dealing with. I'm happy to be here today to talk about addressing students' basic needs with what I call a culture of caring. I had the opportunity yesterday it was a wonderful opportunity; there's a lot of you in the room that I got to know because I got to spend the day doing a site visit for a study that I'm doing on behalf of the District. Your Chancellor has brought my team in because he's genuinely committed. Honestly, and I say this because I don't think a lot of chancellors actually ARE committed - yours is genuinely committed. I tested him. And the fact that I'm here really shows that. It takes, honestly, a pretty brave chancellor, a pretty brave president to bring my team to campus because we're fundamentally for the students and for the staff, and for the faculty. We're all about trying to make things better, and sometimes administrators needed to hear hard truths.
And so we're usually brought in because somebody really wants the feedback and they really want to know what things look like on the ground. So, I really want to start by saying thank you to those who spent time with us yesterday, and we're gonna be back - we've been to Dallas several times in the last year - we'll be back to do more, and eventually delivering a final report on what we've seen thus far.
As we move into this topic today, I want to start though with this slide. Think to yourselves about the things that you see when you turn on the television, when you listen to the news. There's a lot of talk right now that's quite different from the talk that we're going to talk about today. I noticed, even in the last few days, I saw a piece on the news about the fact that a lot of students aren't repaying their loans. If you listen to folks, for example, from Washington who are talking about, the students who are taking out debt and not repaying it. One of the most prominent people in Washington, Mick Mulvaney, from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, recently said it was indicative of students' moral failures. Okay?
We have to grapple with the public perception that what's really going on on these campuses around the country are lazy teachers and lazy students, and people who are not fundamentally committed to education, and if we can be honest, some will say that our students these days, who they will call kids just aren't like the students of yesterday. That if we could just go back to the way things used to be we would have students who were hard-working, understood what college was for, and therefore graduating at very high rates. We're still grappling with those sorts of assumptions. So I want you to just keep them in your mind as I talk about these issues today because I really believe if I have a crusade, my number one crusade, is to update people's understanding of who today's college students are. I think it's absolutely necessary. Who are they? You know, I teach. I am in the classroom every single week and I could draw on my own understandings of that over the last 14 years or so in order to answer this question. But I actually don't think that the answers need to come only from our own individual experiences with our own individual students.
And so instead, for most of the last 15 years, my research teams have been asking students about themselves so that we can get this in their own words. And this is what they sound like, from coast to coast from students who are 18 when they start to students who were 25, to students who were 35. They talk over and over about going to college in order to get at least a stable and somewhat better life. And they really, importantly don't tend to talk about wanting this only for themselves. Many of them referenced the need to help family. Many of them are not talking about a hypothetical family in the future that they might form in 10 or 15 years. They're talking about their family now. They're talking about their mom they're talking about their younger siblings, they're talking about cousins...they're also really talking a lot about finishing what they started, and that's because so many of them are in college for the 2nd or perhaps 3rd time, returning to try to get something done.
And the last part is they emphasize time and time again, that their need to get the degree, as I said earlier, is not all about them. It serves a larger purpose. And I think it's kind of remarkable that they know and have internalized these things at a time when higher education is usually framed as if it is all about the individual. Right?
Students are taking loans with the assumption that they take it for themselves, it pays off FOR them, and then they repay the government. It is a highly individualized way of financing higher education and yet the students talk very differently. In fact, we find through interviews-- I mean, my book is based entirely on people right out of high school. They're all 18 and 19 years old when they started college. We find that even among those folks, there are very few what you would call "kids."
Let's agree, for a moment that a kid is somebody who does not have to carry heavy responsibilities for managing money, for managing time, who gets to have a somewhat carefree life free of those obligations. Many of today's youngest people, who are going off to college have in fact been what's called, by some academics, "adultified." They've been adultified from a very young age. And that is in part because, in contrast to the stereotypes this country has actually become a MORE difficult, not a less difficult, place to live in over the last 50 years. Some will point to this as an age of austerity, a time when the number of government supports available to help people has been reduced means that they've been on their own for a longer period of time. So, I argue that in today's real college world, there are very few kids.
If you think about that and you think about the implications I highly recommend that we think about erasing the word "kids" from the way that we talk about college that we work altogether over and over to be sure that we don't refer to our students as kids. This will help to update the public perception. Now, we know very, very well from a lot of data over many decades, and this has been true since the 1970s, that lots of people who start college don't finish. That's long been true. I have to say, though, it wasn't always so difficult if you dropped out. Right?
Dropping out in the 1970s meant you were bummed, right? You went, you tried to get a degree - it's disappointing if you leave - but it's not necessarily economically consequential. At that time, you might be able to find another job. There were more jobs available to people who didn't have college degrees. But there's a really key other difference between leaving then and leaving now. Leaving now comes with a parting gift for many of our students, and that so-called gift is their student loan debt. So today's consequences are about ending up in debt with no degree and no real ability to pay which, for many students, makes them feel that they would have been better off not going to college in the first place.
These are questions that we have to ponder but if we want to deal with getting them to graduation, we're gonna have to get very real about the barriers that they face. In order to think about what those barriers really are, we need to understand the new economics of college. Now, I spent a really long time trying to grapple with what could really be creating the numbers that I'm gonna show you after this. And I identified a set of structural barriers that really have changed over time, and what's important about the things listed on the screen is that only the first one is the thing that's popularly discussed. This idea that college prices are higher than ever is really well understood. Everybody knows that.
I will admit the conversation about it is not quite where it needs to be because we usually talk about tuition, and in the public sector, the fastest-growing part of those college prices is NOT tuition. It's not tuition. It's actually the cost of living. If you think about it, right, rent's been going up, housing has become less affordable, the price of food's gone up, the price of transportation's gone up, price of healthcare's gone up - all of those things have gone up, and the price of tuition has crept up, but often times NOT as fast as those other things. Okay? That said, of course, all money is green, and when tuition has gone up at all, it creates pressures on those other areas. But there's other stuff that we don't talk about that we have to talk about.
So take the second one. In the past, again in the 1970s, the people who went to college tended to come from families that were doing at least reasonably well. If you came from the family that wasn't okay, if you came from a family that was broke, you didn't go to college. And that meant that when we thought about what our students have to turn to what resources that THEY have. We thought about them as genuinely having support. So if they ran out of financial aid, they could go and turn to mom and dad or turn to their husband and say I need some support. But the families of today's college students are not like those families. The overwhelming majority, especially of community college students have families who are struggling too. And the thing that's really changed for so many American families is that the expectation that things are gonna get a little better each year that expectation has not met with reality.
Think about how much different it looks, for example, when your rent's going up, when you're making more each year, if you can count on a salary increase each year, you look at that rent increase, you're a little bit annoyed but you can handle it because you're going to be making more money. But people's incomes are NOT going up. In many cases they're NOT getting raises from year to year. In fact, they're not sure they're gonna have that same job from year to year. And so, faced with that reality anything less than a flat line in prices or a reduction in prices is going to create stress.
Third issue: the safety net. Now, the safety net, really, today, is a far cry from the safety net of decades ago, and many of us don't even get to experience the safety net anymore because of how much it's changed. But the safety net is supposed to be there for your students when the financial aid falls short, when work falls short. So, for example, if you go back a couple of decades, a woman with a couple of kids, who didn't have much money, we had programs for ensuring that she would get enough cash assistance so that she could absolutely make her housing payments, and keep her kids in the home and keep them fed. And then, in the mid-90s, those policies changed. The vast majority of people who got that cash assistance are no longer getting it, and if they're getting it, they got to go to work, and usually work does not include education. So, going to college does not count.
Another thing that's changed is what's happened to food stamps. Has anybody had any personal experience with the food stamp system? Okay, at least some of you. So, it used to be a lot easier to get food stamps if you needed them. You met an income qualification, you did the paperwork - and there's always paperwork - and then you get the support. These days, that's not the rules; if you don't have a child, you're required to work at least 20 hours a week, and for the most part, college doesn't count, and there are very few exceptions to that. So, you might have a student who really does need that support, but really isn't able to get it because they would have to hold down and be able to FIND and hold down a job that would enable them to then qualify for the food stamps while staying in school, while keeping their grades up and being able to retain financial aid. So that's another change.
That working during college thing? I think a lot of us have done that. How many of you worked your way through college? Look around you. Look around you, keep your hands up, look around you. Right? This is basically an American pastime. Okay. I went to college. I took 18 credits a term, I wanted to get out. I understood it was expensive and I worked 40 hours a week as a waitress. And I gradually got better at it. I gradually figured out that it wasn't really smart to be slinging pancakes because the tips aren't so good on pancakes. Right? And gradually over time, I realized it was better for me to work late at night and serve those cocktails because the tips were much better on those cocktails. Okay? And it worked, right? I would put on that...I'd be tired at the end of the day, of course, but I'd put on that apron, and I would make a lot of cash and I would put those cash tips in my pocket, and I would go home and I'd pay my rent.
And if it didn't work, once in a while, I would have to call my grandfather and say: "Papa, I need an extra 100 bucks. The tips didn't come in well. Can you help me out?" And he would. This is a workable system. It's not ideal 40 hours a week won't work for a lot of people, but a lot of your students are doing it anyway. But the fact is that, again, things have changed. So, think about the last time that you tipped in cash. You rarely tip in cash now, you tip on cards. And guess what? Those tips are reported to the IRS. Do you think my tips were reported to the IRS? No! I'm not running for president! Okay? Think about how much more money I was able to make per hour. Not to mention that the tipped minimum wage has declined in value along with the regular minimum wage over all these years. Not to mention the fact that there are so many people out there fighting over those jobs that college students really need to have.
Those part-time, more flexible jobs are now being taken by people who need to take on 1, 2, or 3 jobs to even work "full-time." We also have SO many of our students who have employers who put them on shifts and change those shifts at the last moment. So we have this impossible situation I mean, I had this just last week, a student wrote to me and she said, "Look, I told him the schedule when I started this semester, but he told me I got to come in on Thursday, I'm gonna miss class." What are we supposed to do? You tell her, "Come to class." Well, that could mean she loses the job that's allowing her to be in school in the first place. So, again, big change.
The last part is something that you live every day. So, I don't have to tell you. Now, I do want to admit that of community college districts in the country, you do get a bit more taxpayer support than I've seen in other places. But that said, there really is no question that over time, the amount of money that you receive PER student to support students with their needs has gone down. It's not the total dollar amount the taxpayers spend that matter. It's the dollar amount relative to each individual student. And let's be clear, I don't care if they're taking 1 class or they're taking 4 classes. Part-time, full-time, they need support. Each individual person. So we gotta look at the resources that you're getting based on headcount. Not based on this nonsense full-time equivalent thing where we take a bunch of part-time students and act like they're 1 person. Right? Because each individual one of them needs to talk to their professor.
Each individual one of them needs support. So we have, at this moment, students from underfunded backgrounds, right? Impoverished backgrounds from families that cannot help them because they need them to go to college in order to create the economic stability entering institutions that have also been systematically defunded over time. That's how we get to where we're at. And beyond that, there's stuff we don't even talk about. Take a look at this quote. This is a quote from a guy who was 18 years old. 18 year old African-American male at a public university in Milwaukee. When we asked him one simple question: "What are you dealing with right now in college? How's it going?" He didn't talk to us about his math class. He didn't talk to us about his work. He talked to us about his mom. We coated up interviews conducted with the same 50 people over the course of 6 years. Over and over and over, and there were three words that stood out in those interviews: Money, math, and mom.
Mom's a big deal, and mom has effects on money and math. Okay? So, this quote shows you he's having trouble paying for his mom's bills. Now why is he being expected to pay for his mom's bills? Because he's part of a family unit. He's a part of a family unit. This is what people do to make ends meet. You support each other. So, while his mom raised him so well to get him off to college in a really difficult, segregated school system. I mean, get into college in Milwaukee is a whole thing. It isn't as if she could say, "Well, son, here you go off to university. Enjoy," and not expect that he would return part of his loan check to her. So why does this affect his math? Well, it affects it for two ways:
First, when he sends her that money; when he gives that to her when he drops by the house and sticks it in her pocketbook, that's the money he could have used on a textbook. So, he goes to class without that textbook. And the other fact of the matter is that when mom calls, and mom needs him, he goes. So he misses class from time to time. When his younger brother is in trouble, he goes. I think we have to ask ourselves if that's a problem. Right? If that's something we want to stop as a nation that fundamentally, I think, does appreciate the value of family, or if that's something that we're gonna need to help him figure out be able to support him through, and perhaps even enable him to do while being successful in school.
This all brings me to the Wu-Tang. Okay. I bet you didn't see that coming. I like that. I didn't know about this 10 years ago when I started doing these interviews. The students brought it to us. Okay, so if you're not familiar and you're not up to speed, get your Spotify. My book, "Paying the Price," has a playlist and this is the opening. What does this mean? Why would I put it on a slide in front of you? Well, to me it means everything. Okay. C.R.E.A.M. is all about what happens when the need for money rules your every single moment. If you have not lived this, I'm happy for you but almost all of our students have to go through the day worrying about where the next dollar's coming from is to endure a cognitive load. Right.
I want to be really clear, this is not something that we just endure, sort of at this at this top level. This is something that we endure as humans, deeply. There's really good research on our brains, and there's a book called "Scarcity" that can lay this out for you that shows that when you are stressed, and particularly when you are financially stressed, It creates changes in your brain. Those changes lead you to do things like we see our students do all the time. Make quick decisions that aren't always optimal. Right? It leads them to literally fall asleep in our classrooms. It leads them to look unmotivated, it leads them to come off as unprepared. It leads them to perhaps not take the responsibility, or the motions towards success that we might want to see from them. That is created by the conditions of scarcity.
The good news is that those changes are not permanent. If we relieve them of that pressure, if we take down that fence, this can literally be reversed. People who have endured scarcity have been given money and these areas of their lives improve. So, the reason I love it so much is that we've got to understand it and center it. When you're looking at that sleeping student, I urge you to think about this. It's possible that's not what's going on for them, but I want it to be in your checklist of things that you run through your mind, and you think about the fact that we can do something about this reality. Unfortunately, though, we're really not yet, at least not as a country, and not in any real systematic way.
Higher education has neglected Abraham Maslow. This pyramid. I mean, I'm just assuming most of you have seen this before. I've come to understand this is the common thread and what people get in college. It seems, right? 'Cause you put this up in front of almost any college educated crowd, and they know what this is. Okay. And you know perfectly well that if the bottom, there, isn't addressed. If you have not slept the night before, if you have not eaten this morning, you're not going to be doing well at the top of that pyramid. So, you go back maybe 10 years or so, and there was a big conversation going on all over the country - it still lingers today - about the number of students who come to college not college ready. And we talked primarily and really overtly about the fact that they don't do well in classes, that they don't do well in our remedial placement exams, that their grades are low when they first get there.
What's notable is what was absent from that conversation; where any data about the students' conditions as they tried to take those tests. For example, asking whether they had eaten breakfast, not only before the test, but ANYtime in the last month. The things that we do with our more wealthy young people to prepare them for things like the SAT, putting them through both yoga exercises and mindful meditation, and a good breakfast and a great night's sleep the night before to get those scores up. We don't do this with the nation's community college students. So let's talk about food insecurity. All right, be honest with me: Ramen. How many of you have eaten it in college? There we go. And when you're talking to a friend...I don't mean the good stuff, by the way. Right, it's kind of funny because the foodies have made ramen into a thing now, and it's good. So, when I try to go out there and talk to regular people like my Uber driver or my Lyft driver about food insecurity, they say to me: "Well come on, do they not have ramen anymore? Don't you know about the Dollar Menu? What do you mean the students are food insecure?"
So I want to get real clear with you, so that you can tell them too. What I mean by food insecurity. And the first thing I want you to know is I'm not giving you a definition created for higher education. There is a single definition for humans that the United States Department of Agriculture has created that is used all over the world. Now, I gotta be honest with you, it's not a perfect measure. There are flaws in it. I'm about to show you how it works and I'm sure you'll see some of those flaws.
But before we start suggesting that college students shouldn't be assessed this way, remember that that would be to take apart these same assessments that we use to assess whether children are poor. Whether children have enough to eat. Because this is the measure. So, the way it works is students are asked to respond about the conditions facing them, and we ask them to do so in the last 30 days.
So we asked them for their level of agreement or the number of times these things have happened over the last 30 days. For example, we asked them: Was it never true, sometimes true, or often true that you couldn't afford to eat balanced meals in the last 30 days. Now, if you've eaten ramen most of the time for the last 30 days, I suggest that you're probably gonna say that's often true. And it's also possible that you might say that it was often true that you worried if the food would run out before you got more money. But if those were the only 2 things that you were experiencing, we would add up those 2 and you would get a score on this measure of 2, which would put you in the Secure category. That includes people who are both completely secure in their food and marginally secure in their food. And those are the people we are not calling food insecure. The people who we're calling food insecure are the people who say "yes" to items like: Did you ever cut the size of your meals or skip meals because there wasn't enough money for food, and if you did that then you get a layered on one of asking you if that happened at least 3 times in the last 30 days.
Okay, it increases in severity, we asked about losing weight because you didn't have enough food, going hungry because you didn't have enough food. And ultimately, all of those things are added up, and they get a score, and then we have a level for them and that's their food insecurity. Now, we can do this with 2 questions, we can do it with 6, we do it with 10, and for people with children, we do it with 18. The increase in sensitivity if you do it with 2 questions, and let's say that you as a professor wanted to start your first day of class by giving students that measure because you wanted to know if they were food insecure, you might not want to give them the 18. Right, it's a lot of questions. So let's say you gave them the 2. You'll get a good read, but the science also shows you're gonna get a more accurate read with the additional questions. So we have gradually, over time, gone from 6 to 10 to 18.
Now we also want to consider, because of Maslow, the conditions that are gonna affect things like their sleep and their sense of safety. And so let's talk about housing security and homelessness. These are difficult issues. There are a lot of people who face, for example, difficulty meeting their rent or mortgage payments. Right? They stretch to do it. It's not fun, especially when coupled with a student loan payment, but they get it done. We call somebody housing insecure if they say that any of the items towards the top, here happened to them in the last 12 months. And we call somebody homeless if they say that one of the items towards the bottom happened in the last 12 months. Okay, now this represents the state of the field at the time these surveys were done we're gonna release, later this spring, some new numbers with an updated homelessness measure. Because what you can see here is that, for example, if you're going without paying your utilities, which means that they're at risk of being cut off. I mean, this could be everything from their water's gonna be cut off, to their Internet's gonna be cut off, which I want to suggest is the kind of big deal when you're trying to do well in school.
That we might call housing insecurity, these other issues towards the bottom are things that most of us would really readily recognize as homelessness, and be fairly visible too, right? That you've gotten thrown out of your home, you're staying in your car; I know I met several people yesterday who talked about students who are sleeping in their cars. People who are outside, people who are in shelters. The thing that you should notice, though, is that we're not talking, in this measure here about couchsurfing - about moving around and staying with a cousin here, and a brother there for a couple different weeks at a time. In the new measure that we're going to release later this spring; we are now including that, and the reason that we're doing so are two: One is, it has become abundantly clear that almost half of all youth homelessness is couchsurfing. And so, to ignore it is to greatly understate the number of people who need that help. The other thing, though, is we started with a more conservative measure because we faced so much skepticism around the country, that college students could be homeless, and we wanted to be really crystal clear that we were talking only about the most severe cases.
We've gained some ground in this area. I think some of you may have seen CBS Sunday Morning, and others, covering this issue. And as a result, we're going to now finally include the couchsurfing that really is so much of what your students face. But let's take a look at what the numbers look like. And here I'm showing you data from the fall of 2016. We released this in spring 2017. This was a survey, the biggest survey ever done of community college students. It was in 24 states, including yours. It was at 70 community colleges, including your district. I'm gonna show you your numbers in a moment. And 33,000 students answered our survey. Now, a lot of people didn't answer our survey. I think you probably can imagine that they mostly deleted it because that is what you would probably do with our survey, right? It's what I do with surveys. When you look at the numbers, I want you to think to yourself - do you think the people, who are dealing with the biggest challenges were jumping at the chance to do our electronic survey? That paid them nothing. That was delivered and accessible to them only if they were able to access it on their phone or some other computer. I think that they weren't. I think that the most severe cases didn't answer our survey. We also offered them no help. And nevertheless, we found 56% of them were food insecure in the last 30 days, 51% of them were housing insecure and 14% of them were homeless. Here are your numbers.
Your numbers are very similar, slightly lower but not to the point of comfort. Okay, I don't know if you all saw this. If you were around at that time, we released this in the spring of 2017. It did get some press here in Dallas. The Chancellor's certainly aware of it. But you've got very high rates here - to think that, perhaps, 1 in 10, or just over 1 in 10 of your students would have experienced homelessness in the last year. And that that could be shaping what they're doing in the classroom that certainly would demand some attention. Another thing that's really important, though is that this issue is not just limited to community colleges. There are a lot of people who think it is. A lot of folks who think, well, this is the mission of community colleges. You're supposed to be the ones dealing with these students. So, we finally were able to convince some universities to do this. Most of them are very reluctant. This is not something they want to be talking about.
But we, last year, released this study. That's 20,000 students, 35 universities, 14 states. And as you can see, while the rates are lower than they are for community colleges, they are by no means negligible. My own institution's numbers look very similar to this. Our homelessness rate is 7%. I regularly, every single semester have an undergraduate in my classes who is actively homeless at that time. So, this is a widespread problem. We don't know what it looks like in the for-profit institutions. Right. We don't know what it looks like in the most elite institutions. Although a wonderful book was just released. I believe it was released on Monday, called "The Privileged Poor," that documents the food insecurity occurring in the Ivy. So, these things are in fact occurring in many different places, but they are not occurring equitably. All of the things that we see happen in society broadly create differences in who endures these challenges. I'm giving you a couple of different student demographics, here, just so that you can see a bit of the intersectionality. So, breaking this by race and whether or not a student self identifies as LGBTQ. You can see, of course, that they intersect.
In that, for example, the rates of homelessness among African American LGBTQ students is especially high. Now, when we released these numbers, there was a really interesting public response. I think you might like to know about it. It was in the USA Today. USA Today has a member on their board who decided that in response to these numbers, he would write an op-ed about how this was junk science. That it was nonsense. And he said that the reason you would know it was nonsense was that there's been no systematic attack on LGBTQ students. No effort to starve them, no effort to render them homeless, and so of course, when you look at these numbers, you've got to know their jump. I think he doesn't understand the financial aid system. Okay? I think he doesn't understand the dynamics of many families. Unfortunately, there are a large number of these students who are estranged from their parents. And yet, they are not able to file as independents for financial aid purposes, so their family's income counts, and leads them to not qualify for things like the Pell Grant, while in fact, they don't get access to that support. Think for a minute about the big debate that we're having in many places, including around the Promise Program. Over giving money, making it tuition-free, for example, for "non-needy" students. I object to the term "needy."
Okay, these are students with need. But we should also object to the framing of people who are not Pell eligible as not having financial need. These are exactly the sorts of students who benefit when we move away from a system in the middle of that picture at the start. Where we try to figure out who needs the biggest stool. Where we sort of asked them to raise their hands, and we move towards a system where we just take it down, so that even these students, these hard-working, many of them very academically talented students, are not punished for not being able to get access to their families' finances while they're in college.
Let's take a look at a few more. People with children in community college, veterans, Pell recipients, and former foster youth. This former foster youth numbers are crushing. Do you know what it's like to grow up in that system? And I have a staff member who did. You know that it's a triumph to even get to college. But the system is crazy in its rules. This is a system that in many ways disincentivizes college enrollment from the start, and if students do go off to college, they end up having to leave behind a bunch of the support they were receiving. Those checks stopped coming to the family that housed them before they get to college, and they find out they have literally nowhere to live. So, their odds of graduation are far lower than of typical Pell Grant recipients, and this is a leading reason why. The numbers I just showed you are definitely not junk science, and I'm really pleased that this year, the federal government has finally stood up and said so. For decades, the federal government was absolutely silent on these issues.
We have a national school lunch program for children, but literally nothing for higher education because this idea that there would be food insecurity is so foreign to the powers that be. But on January 9 in Washington, D.C. - during the government shutdown - the Senate Health Committee, along with several others from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, did one thing. And that thing was to hold a briefing jointly with my team and MAZON, which is an anti-hunger organization, to release a new federal report on campus food insecurity. That report opens by saying there is widespread food insecurity on our campuses that they've reached that conclusion by examining 31 studies from around the country, 4 of which my team led, and that the sum total of those numbers means that the substantial federal investment in higher education is at risk if college students drop out because they cannot afford basic necessities like food.
In other words, we have an economic case for addressing this. Why would we spend all this money on student loans and the billions and billions that we spend on Pell, and not at least go far enough to ensure that their basic needs are met. The other reason to do it is that these students are demonstrably committed to college. In our surveys, we asked them, homeless or not, food insecure or not, to report on how they spend their time. Now you'd be amazed, they are very honest. I mean, the numbers of students spending a lot of time on school are relatively low overall. But what's notable to me is that the students in dealing with basic needs and securities spend just as much time on school, going to class and doing their homework, as students who DO have their needs secure. The key difference is that they are a little less likely to be employed and more likely to be searching for a job, trying to find one, which is the worst because you're spending time on it, but you're not actually getting paid. They tend to commute a little farther, and they sleep a whole lot less.
So you can see why they might not do as well in the classroom. The hardest part though, I think, beyond those survey numbers, is what we learn from the interviews, sitting down with homeless college students of all different types, all over the country, I hear the exact same thing from every single one of them at some point during the conversation. What they say is that they are to blame. They will almost always crap some version of a narrative in which they have personally failed. That says something. Right? The idea that they uniformly believe that this problem that they are facing is theirs and theirs alone caused by their own moral failures is something that we have to have taught them. It's created by a system that blames poverty on the poor. The consequence of that is substantial - this is the point at which they lose hope. This is the point at which they believe there really is no need to continue in school because they're not going to cut it.
The thing here is that they're wrong. It actually isn't possible for us to have and see numbers like this all over the country if this was caused by individuals. Something really massive would have had to have happen to get all these individuals to act in exactly the same way. And those massive things are exactly the structural barriers that I've described. This needs to be communicated to them, and we can do this. I know that it's a tough time, I know that you're under-resourced, I know that you're strapped, I know that many of you are probably also working multiple jobs. But I want you to know that even without federal action, and there will be federal action, it's just not quite yet. We can do better. And then I'm gonna talk to you about some things you can do, both small and large. The first thing you can do is literally just remember that students are humans first. This is really fundamental.
We have been taught, many of us as faculty, to look at our students first and foremost as learners and learners sort of denotes this idea that they are already ready. That the conditions in their lives have already enabled them to be prepared to learn. You need to take one step back and look at them, first, just as humans. We need to ask ourselves: Are their basic needs being met? We want US to be viewed as humans and we want them to look at us, as professors, as humans, we have to do the same for them as well. When you start to do that, when you start to see their humanity, I think you'll find a bit of a change in how you approach them. And many of you, I think, are already doing this.
Some of you spoke to me about, for example, meeting the students where they are and that being a main reason that you want to be at a community college. But this needs to be integrated throughout practices. It can't be left up to a few individual people. When this is done across the institution, it creates a new culture. This idea of a culture of caring is something that my team really got to know better when we went to the panhandle of Texas. Now, do you know about the panhandle of Texas? I didn't. I didn't know about the Panhandle of Texas. I got a tweet from a college president there couple years ago, and he said: "You gotta come down here, you won't believe what we're doing. You're gonna love it." And I'm like, "Yes, this college president's looking for attention." Cool, got it. But I said, "Sir, I'll get on the phone with you and we'll talk." And I got on the phone with him and I heard him saying things, but the things he was doing at his college that I've really never heard a president say before. He described for me the fact that he'd actually gone out and lived as a homeless person for a week. He described the fact that he had put his entire staff through poverty training. He described the fact that he had changed the job descriptions, change the job descriptions of every single person in his entire campus, from the janitorial staff all the way up through the top administrators, to indicate that everyone had a responsibility to say something if they saw something.
Don't have to solve it, just gotta say something. That was enough to get me on a plane. So I flew down there to Amarillo. I got out, I called an Uber. I think you all knew what my Uber looked like. There was a giant truck. There's the biggest truck I've ever seen in real life, okay? And I'm starting to think, well, this can't be real because on the plane, I'm reading the demographics, right? And this is a very red area, and this is not a place where I might expect to find this sort of thing. But I went and it's absolutely real. And the reason that it's happening is not because these are mushy people with social justicey feelings, which are all good people, by the way. No problem with that - I live with those people in Philadelphia. These people understand something else. These people understand that their economy in their area, in the Panhandle, is gonna sink fast if they don't help more people get access to education. And they've agreed on that. They had a collective impact initiative called Panhandle 2020, and they came together and they made these changes at Amarillo College, and it's working. Their students are graduating at much higher rates. And they're seeing all kinds of positive changes around campus, as students who didn't use to ask for help actually DO come forward to get the help that they need. They go very, very far; they go farther than most colleges, I think, could imagine.
That President Russell Lowery-Hart went out and found a mechanic and he said to the guy: "I need you to help fix my students' cars. We will pay, but we need a discount So that our emergency aid goes further." And then he deemed that mechanic his College Success Coach. Right? Think about that for a minute. Think about how that's about calling people in. Think about how that's about activating the local businesses to, not only hire your graduates, but create your graduates. That's what a culture of caring can do. Please ask questions. I always say that there's no policy that can't be changed. Not everybody loves it that I say that the administrators don't like that, but I think that it's important. I think you need to ask questions, you need to ask why do we do it the way that we do it. Are we doing it this way because we've always done it this way? Do you do things in your classroom because that's how YOU were taught? You are the academically successful. You are the ones who've got the degrees. That's a lot of privilege. You take a step back; you're trying to help create more people who get there.
So, there are resources out there. You have plenty of resources here. I mean, I got to hear about all sorts of things. You got a new deal with the food bank. You got the store, right? You got this Connections Program growing. You need to be asking questions about what you have and connecting students to those things. Also, faculty, I'm not asking you to become social workers, but you need to know a social worker, and you have at least one on your campus, and you probably need more. You need to expand those resources, you need to focus on prevention rather than just reaction. Students should be getting help BEFORE they become food insecure, rather than desperately seeking to go to the store at the last moment. That's the goal. And you need to advertise; if you don't do effective outreach, then only the squeaky wheels will get the help. The standard, usual ways of doing outreach here tend to fail because they tend to ask people to do a little more than they are comfortable doing at least the first time when seeking services that are fundamentally stigmatized.
So, consider that even at Amarillo - when I first went to Amarillo, one of the things I noticed was that their services were primarily sought by women. They were overwhelmingly serving women and there were men on their campuses. They were also overwhelmingly serving white and Latino folks African Americans were not being served in nearly as high rates. We've worked with them to revise their outreach. Instead of just relying on posters, and flyering, and going to visit classrooms, they are now actively nudging students, using text messages and email to let students know about resources more consistently, but the student receives it in the privacy of their own device or their own home. And now, for the first time, Amarillo is seeing a great uptick in the number of men and people of color who are receiving those services, and African Americans in particular. I think that's a really good move. So these partnerships need to continue. We also need to do what we can to connect students to public benefits. It's a difficult thing right now - there are a lot of people who are really worried about getting public benefits for a variety of reasons. And it isn't the easiest thing to do, but it is achievable, and it really isn't different than connecting students to the Pell Grant. Think about it, "The Pell Grant is a government benefit and we say you should get it." We say you should do the FAFSA. Why wouldn't we also say we need to make sure that even after the Pell Grant comes in, you got enough money so you can eat, and connect them to SNAP.
It's also clear that you have a need to expand emergency aid, and I think there are lots of ways to do that. I understand you used to have a program called SURF and it was useful. I've seen folks begin again with an emergency aid fund, for example, through an employee donation program. That can be a nice thing to do. The great thing about emergency aid is that you can raise a substantial amount of money $5-10 at a time. You can hold a gathering, a fundraiser, a party or whatever and take donations. The dollars will be given out in small increments, but you will not believe how much it matters to a student to get just what they need at just the right moment. As I said before, when the tips didn't come in well for me in college, I called my grandfather. I'm so lucky that I had a grandfather, that I still have a grandfather, 91 years old. He would give me 100 bucks right when I need it. And the key here is he didn't make me fill out an application. Right? I didn't have to wait. I did have to hear him tell me, "Don't go spend it on clothes." And he'd have to give me a little Jewish guilt. I have to take a little bit of that, and it's cool. "Okay, Papa, I'll call you again next week." And the money would come. And back then I had to wait for a check to come in the mail; they don't have to wait that long anymore.
So you got to do it fast because it's an emergency. You have a lot of good examples here. Like I said, you got this new partnership with the food bank. You've got Aunt Bertha, which has been set up through the District and is helpful. But you got a lot of other good examples happening throughout Texas; Houston Community College is doing a food scholarship program. It is so simple. The Financial Aid office looks at the students' packages and says: "All right, look, we got a bunch of students. They're Pell Grant recipients and they have a whole lot of unmet needs. Let's partner with the food bank and let's give them a card and tell them the food bank's gonna to come to campus every 2 weeks and open up a farmers market, and students can come whether or not they're dealing with food insecurity at that moment and get their groceries." In other words, just take groceries off your mind. I've gone, I've watched this happen, it is a beautiful sight. Students show up and they can get up to 60 lbs. of fruit and vegetables, and meat and dairy, they bring their children, they push a grocery cart and all of that is free. They weigh it at the end, they swipe their card, and on they go. And they don't take away that support from the students when they stop out from college. They can have it for up to a semester with the hopes that it'll help bring them back. I already told you a bit about Amarillo, there's good work happening in El Paso in Texas.
What I can see, though, around the state, and this is affirmed by a survey that was recently done by Trellis throughout the state of Texas, is that most people are doing referrals and food assistance. There's a lot less happening with regard to housing, in particular. And I understand that the housing is difficult. One thing you might consider here is creating a Host Home program. A Host Home program, something typically done for youth homelessness. These are people who are willing to take a student in for a couple of semesters, perhaps to help create a graduate. They're opening their private homes; you can create a little contract with them, you're not incurring the liability - they incur that, usually. And they come in, and they live there, and they graduate, and they move on. And this sometimes is a solution when the government hasn't solved it for you, or the private sector hasn't solved it yet. I urge you to make sure that you provide some information on your syllabus about resources that are available. This is a sample statement. It's being used at over 500 colleges all over the country. It is another symbol of your interest and your support. You put your attendance policy on there; you put what they're supposed to do if they have a disability. You put your expectations, but why not communicate to them as well that if they're having a challenge in this area, they should seek support. Opening the door for them to come to you; I'm sure that most of you are already meeting with your students, but that door being open does not mean...that door being open does not mean you're expected to take them home. I want to assure you that is not what I'm suggesting. I'm not suggesting you go in your own pockets, and that you solve this for them. I am suggesting that you have at least a short conversation with them so that you can really urge them to get the help that they need. If you can, possibly, you're gonna refer them somewhere, walk them over and do a warm handoff.
Make sure that they get their help. As I said before, we're trying to help make sure that these things happen. We are doing this assessment right now, we're providing technical assistance, and we're also working on creating a more systematic, system-wide emergency aid solution that you'll be able to utilize. My goal for you is that you'll be able to simply refer students to a website that you could pull up even in your classroom, and stand there with them for 5 minutes max. I am a busy professor too. 5 minutes max, and have them finished with the application and on their way with the decision about that emergency assistance rendered within 24 hours. It's completely achievable, and it would take a load off of many of you. We welcome your ideas and your feedback, both on this evaluation, and on that emergency aid product, and the email for that is up there.
Another really important thing you can do fits right into your goals as educators. Talk to each other. Talk to the people who are not in this room. Talk to your Facebook friends, and talk to your Twitter friends, tell your neighbors. Tell them about this data. Help to reframe--these data. My grandmother's in there somewhere. These data. Talk to them because that's how we're gonna change their understanding of your students and their needs. And that is how you fundamentally grow public support. You do need more resources. The path to doing that is by helping them reframe who those students are, and viewing them as humans, worthy individuals. Do whatever you can to destigmatize these issues on campus, so that students will seek the help that they need. And finally, I urge you to advocate. Many of these issues are political challenges but that said, there is not a single candidate out there who has all the right answers right now. There's not a party that has all the right answers right now. The responsibility for the broken financial aid system, the small American bureaucratic tragedy, that it is merely a large one, is the responsibility of many administrations over a long period of time. It's the responsibility of both the federal government and the states, and it is a failure. We need to fix it. We can do a lot more. We can do things in the higher education space, and we can also do things, for example, in the farm bill. To try to expand access to SNAP. We can do things like expanding the National School Lunch Program to higher education. I would argue, starting with the community colleges. We need to have the discussion that some folks are trying to have right now about affordable childcare because that's a burden for our students. We need to have that discussion about what the minimum wage really should be because that, again, is the college completion issue. I urge you to think about all of these things and not just think about tuition the next time that you're having those conversations.
Last thing is, I want to offer you an invitation. This real college movement has a conference, we've been doing it now for 4 years. And this year, we've decided to move it from Philadelphia to Texas. We're coming to Houston, in part, to share the great work that is happening there with the food bank, but also because it's a location that we can host more of you from all around the state to try to encourage the work that is coming out of Texas. It's at the end of September, and we do offer scholarship support. You can find more on the website, and the registration opens in May. This is our information, and we do hope that you'll stay in touch, and I'm really now looking forward to your questions. Thank you.
Okay, so I see I have slide of questions here. All right, so the 1st question that I have received is: "It seems that the cost of textbooks and ancillary materials is also a contributor to student debt. What can we do to convince publishers to stop gouging students?" Okay, yeah. So, the key here is, again, all money is green. And if they're spending money on textbooks, then it's harder...there is a real, legit trade-off between buying a book and buying food. I think at this stage, that the best response I've seen is the Open Educational Resources movement (OER). The idea that faculty might be creating and using resources that are non-controlled by publishers is promising. You do, however, want to note it isn't free. It may be free for the students but it isn't free for the faculty to create these materials. And so, I do think it's really important that if that's the goal, if that's the thing that you want to do, is you get the professional development time and space in order to do it. I think those investments are absolutely critical and I think that it could go a long way.
The 2nd issue that I see here, the 2nd question is: "How do we help the students with housing issues?" It's obviously the hardest thing. There are a couple of different things that you can do, and I recognize that every place has a context that security here is a concern. I think that one of the things that you've gotta do...I mention the Host Home program, but one of the things that you want to be able to do is to make the best possible referrals and to connect them directly. So, for you all to know, for example, who on your campus, this is the natural starting point, to designate a person - one person, who is the single point of contact for homeless students, whose entire job...well, let's be honest, it's a community college, it's gonna be part of the job. This is the person, though, who needs to have all the expertise in this area. This is the person who's gonna know the latest on the rapid rehousing processes in the area.
These are the people who will know you know, which shelters you can actually have your students at. These are the people who might know of the opportunities to put somebody into, for example, some sort of temporary housing. The single point of contact model is federally required in high schools. It's used all the time. The point there is that somebody's gotta have all of that information, and that it's easiest if all of you know one person's name. It has not expanded to higher ed, but I do expect than in future years, you're going to see this become a federal requirement because it is shown to work. So, I think that's really, really critical, but I think also that partnerships with housing authorities, partnerships with homeless service agencies; there are pieces of the puzzle that can be smoothed out, and I also had a very promising conversation yesterday with a private developer in this area who is interested in creating some additional housing for homeless students. It's not something that I think would happen maybe in the next 6 months to a year, but it does seem like a real possibility, and he's already starting to do it in Arlington this fall.
Another one: "What can we do to better support students' childcare needs?" It's really remarkable that over time, the number of people who have children in college has grown, and the number of dollars for supporting child care has gone down. I think one of the first things to do is to grapple with your own personal decision as a professor, about whether you allow children in your classroom. A difficult question. Some people land on, "No, it's just too disruptive." Others really would prefer their student come to class if they're having a child care issue and allow them to bring them. It's a question. It's a challenging question. There are lots of potential reasons you would and potential reasons you wouldn't, but when it's not communicated to students they're just left wondering. I think that's a really big...an important issue. There has been an expansion of C Campus funding; it's called C Campus funding, which is federal money for child percenters. And it did grow in recent years, and we're certainly hopeful in the next Higher Ed Act that that would also be expanded. I also wonder about potential partnerships that could be made with local child care agencies and facilities that you all might already be using, that if they have vacancies, they might be willing, for example, to offer a discounted rate to the college because it's always better to have at least some money than no money for that vacancy. So, perhaps that's another one.
The 4th question: "What are your thoughts on Antifragility Theory that is teaching students resilience." Well, it's me, I'm gonna say it: Your students are not fragile. They're not fragile. That's not the issue. You don't get to community college by being fragile. They're resilient. They don't know how to navigate these systems, that's very different than not being resilient. I think that it is important to give them expectations around how you do college. Teaching them how to do college, though is just revealing the hidden curriculum. It's not so much about teaching resilience. I know a lot of this conversation has come out of a national conversation about grit. There are studies coming out about grit and higher education, that do not suggest that teaching grit increases college success. I'm not surprised. I do think that we might have some students on some college campuses around this country who maybe are not as resilient; they have not gone through a lot in the past. These are the students of the wealthy. I think the question is, are we teaching resilience at Harvard? I think we should start there before we start doing it with your students.
#5: "Is there already an operational example of 5-minute need survey to assess student need and whether they qualify?" I am happy to say - not yet, but there will be in about a month. We're working on this right now because we're working with one of those national companies that does the early alerts for colleges, and we're creating it for them and we're putting it for public use out there, but you could start sooner if you wanted to, by using the guide on our website to assessing basic needs and security. It's a longer guide that you could pick a couple of questions from it. It shows you the USDA's food insecurity questions, for example. You could also just start more simply by just asking: "Are you having trouble with any of the following issues?" Do a "check all that apply" Put food, put housing, put childcare, put transportation. Even if you don't connect them to a single resource, you will have helped yourself as their teachers and as their support staff to know them better. It is so much better to have revealed those issues than to leave them invisible and wonder why they're not coming.
#6: "How do we help students with gaining access to affordable health care on a student budget or for students struggling with homelessness who don't have income at all?" Yeah, connecting them to ACA is pretty important. That's what somebody who's doing benefits access on campus can do to help them connect with the Affordable Care Act and the benefits that are offered to them there. The other thing, though, is as I mentioned, you can do things like that College Success Coach who's a mechanic. That College Success Coach could also be a medical professional. It might be possible. Dental care is absolutely critical. It is a big deal, it drives academic success at all levels, and many folks are going without the care that they need - it might even include some of you. Let's make a dentist a College Success Coach. They need the business, and you've got the patients.
#7: "You have a high population of international students who don't qualify for government assistance and visa restrictions regarding work." This is the perfect example, again, as I said with the LGBTQ students; if you take down the fence, this problem, at least, lessens. That's a serious concern for these students. I agree with you, many of them are here; they have completed some paperwork that suggests they have the money to be here, but let's be really honest, they don't. My international students definitely don't. I assume yours don't, too. Anything that you can offer that is open to all is therefore a support for them. I think the other thing that would be interesting to consider is whether there is some help that you can provide in helping them match up with each other, for example, so that they can live together. As they're coming here, is there some sort of off-campus housing assistance that you can provide, not paying for it, but just helping them to find those potential roommates so that they can often...unfortunately end up in crowded conditions, but at least they have a roof over their heads.
#8: "How can we motivate faculty to take the time to promote these resources in the classroom?" I'm gonna say something similar to what I said for the students. You have very motivated faculty. You don't teach at a community college if you're not motivated. I suspect that your issues are not motivation - your issues are exhaustion and bandwidth and a growing sense that you're being asked to be all things to all people. You're concerned that you might have to become a social service agency. You're worried that you're being asked to end poverty on top of teaching students college material. I get it. I'm a professor too. They ask us to do all things. But do you have one really serious goal and that is to help your students learn. And all I'm describing here today are tools that you can deploy in addition to your usual assignments, and to your wonderful motivating lectures and other discussions.
This is just another tool to add in to the work that you're already doing. You're not being asked to solve the problem, you're being asked to contribute to the solution. My sense, from the conversations that we've had and the surveys we've done with faculty is that most faculty agree with these things. Those who don't, are concerned that we are making people more fragile. That we're not teaching them the skills that they need to simply survive. It's a Darwinian approach and the problem with that is that there's really very little future for these students if they don't get the credential they came here for. Many of them were not all-stars in high school. They were perhaps B and C students. B and C students who don't get at least a certificate, some sort of credential from here, have very little chance of not only not moving up in the world, but of even facing stability. They're very likely to go through a lot of challenges, and their children are likely to go through a lot of challenges. And the problem is that then that has an intergenerational effect. So if you want to live in a community where the kids grow up happy, and healthy, and strong. And where they become adults who contribute to your economy, and they pay taxes along with you - this is the work.
Any other questions? Am I allowed to take a question that somebody doesn't put on here? Is that okay? I've never done that. Anybody got a question? Anybody want to tell me about something that you're working on? Something that you're proud of. Yes.
Question 1: (Unintelligible)
Sara Goldrick-Rab: Yep, yep.
Sara Goldrick-Rab: Hope is everything. Hope is everything, and people talk about hope like it's naïve. It's not. We always say we're the place where hope has a strategy. Hope is a strategy. It literally is. It is the path to getting more done and creating that hope, it is very rarely false hope, in fact because it does begin to bear dividends right away. You mentioned that a lot of this is a lot of common sense. A lot of what I'm describing is common sense. My grandmother used to tell me that sociology is the statement of the obvious. I'm a sociologist, I kind of agree. I think that's important. I think we have to say the things that aren't being said, but that we all basically understand. There's a lot of different things that you can do to get involved beyond your own campus in terms of the national efforts, and I think that a lot of what you really have in terms of your own power are your stories and your voices. We're beginning an effort that will roll out across social media for the next year or so, where we tell the stories of people working in what we call real college. So, we've been asking people to do a little video that starts with what the best part of your day is as a real college faculty member or real college staff member, and what the hardest part of your day is. We need to help people see, not only the students, but inside these colleges because they really do tend to believe that whatever is going on on campus is the root of the problem. I really don't think it is. We need to help them understand that and we also need to help them to hear from your students.
I think it is, in some ways, something that students really enjoy doing, and I think in some ways it's scary for the students to do it, so we're gonna do this very carefully, and with a lot of respect and thought towards their vulnerability - especially when we're putting things out on social media; but if you're interested in that you can send me a note, and I'm happy to share with you that direct opportunity. But overall, really doing the work in the community, to keep talking to each other about these things is absolutely critical. You have so many different points of light here. One of my board members is Michael Sorrell, who's over at Paul Quinn College. If you take a look at what they've done. For those of you that don't know, did you know that Michael Sorrell got rid of the football team at Paul Quinn College? And he replaced it with a garden so his students could eat in Texas? I just kept shaking my head. I just kept shaking my head. How'd you do that? But if Michael Sorrell can do that, think about what you can do. That was a bold move and the reason he did it...he's a businessman. He's not an academic. He is a businessman, and he looked and he said: "Seriously, our students are not graduating, and a lot of them are honestly hungry. What do we need more here: football or food?" And he went with the food. So, day by day, I see all sorts of stuff that's coming out of here, and you want to be telling each other about it and talking about different solutions, and I think a lot of times the solutions come from you all. You know of some community partnership, you're engaged in something. There are places, by the way, where churches do partner with campuses. For example, to support homeless college students. That is something that's happening throughout California. It's perfectly legal, by the way. That's not really an issue, but it's something that maybe you have a connection there that you can help with. There are so many things.
Question 2: I teach at a satellite campus as well as this campus here, so I have a mixture of both affluent students and students who are very much not in the same classroom, fairly often. My question is, "What can we do to destigmatize these avenues that can help the students that aren't..." For example, I'll have students that need assistance but they won't ask for it, or they won't say anything because they're in this classroom with students who have all of their books and their laptops, and this and that, at the same time. And so, I'll say, "Okay, well we can go to the Counseling Center or we can go to these other places," but they don't want to go. And even having that conversation in the classroom is really uncomfortable, both for the students who don't need those resources and for the students who do. So, my question is basically, "How do we work on destigmatizing these..."
Sara Goldrick-Rab: It's difficult. Certainly mixed income classrooms are challenging. All sorts of diverse classrooms are challenging, and there are also opportunities, right? Those students who don't seem like they have need, the need can come at any time. Everybody...I find one of the most heartbreaking parts of the research on homelessness in this country shows that homelessness has a lot to do with bad luck. One car accident, honestly, can destabilize a family's budget. One job loss, one divorce one cancer bout can destabilize people, and I would actually do what I could to help them learn about those sorts of things. About the issues that are going around society that affect all of us. That can happen to anyone. To gain some of their interest in the conversation. So that's one piece. The other piece is: I think it's important that we do more than say, "Help is available." The resource, the counseling is over here, etc.
I like to bring them over there and show them. I bring them to the food pantry as a matter of my class because I want them to see it. I want the ones who don't need it to see it. I want the ones who need it to have been there at least once so they know it's an okay place to go. It takes a little bit of time, but I do all kinds of stuff with them while we walk over. I think, also, that it's important that you talk about these issues repeatedly throughout the semester. This is not just introductory material. I like it to be in the syllabus because a lot of people do have to refer back to the syllabus repeatedly during the semester. You could also put it on your...I don't know if you're using Blackboard or something like that. You can put it on there. But bring it up from time to time. Bring it up during stressful parts of the semester, around exams, for example. That repeated part can help. And then I think the other thing is to just say over and over that everybody needs help in college. Everybody needs help in college. Nobody gets through college without help. It may not be the kind of help like government benefits, but frankly, everybody's getting some sort of government subsidy. And you need to help them understand that it is a strength, it is an asset to be a person who asks for help. And I think trying to work that in from time to time will be helpful.
Question 3: Of the different models used in other countries to help remedy some of these issues, like the Canadian subsidization and tax forgiveness model, the Nordic "Money Follows the Kid" model, the continental Europe public university model. Which do you think would work best and which do you think is most realistic to apply here?
Sara Goldrick-Rab: That's a great question. I have a hard time believing that we're gonna successfully import a model from elsewhere. And the reason is that we are actually incredibly unique in the amount of diversity in our country, and the high rates of existing college enrollment. So in most of these other places, rates of enrollment are lower and they attempt to educate a narrower swath of people. There's a substantial amount of tracking that happens even before they get to higher education. And so, the political dynamics around financing the people who DO get there are very different than our dynamics. I really think we have to grapple with the fact that our dynamics are primarily about us questioning whether we're willing to support the education of each other's children. That's the question. Are we willing to go beyond paying for an individual and pay for our community to be able to get more education. I think the answer with our attempt on the Pell Grant has been: No, if I'm not benefiting from it. If I'm not directly benefiting from it. One of the biggest problems with the Federal Pell Grant is that the means testing, the FAFSA, which is a horrible, horrible form. It is a form of gatekeeping that leads the middle class to feel disconnected from the program. If we don't engage the middle class in whatever mechanism we have for financing higher education, then we're not gonna properly resource it.
All programs for poor people in this country are starved of resources and have been for most of the last century. So, we're gonna need a model that is more inclusive. Now, if you go back to the 1950s and 1960s, the conversation that led to the today's situation, there was an active debate over financing the institutions to be affordable or financing the students directly through a voucher model. We clearly ended up in a second camp. This is a market-driven model that was developed in large part by Milton Friedman, the same guy behind vouchers for school children. That answer did not work, in large part, because states were given very little responsibility for higher education as a result. It was all about individual students going through, and demanding of their institutions that they provide an affordable and high quality experience something that people who qualify for the Pell Grant don't really get as a societal treatment or a societal benefit. That's what leads me to broad national efforts, like the decision at the beginning of the 20th century to make high school free. We didn't make high school free because it was a really sweet thing to do. To get a pat on the back. We made high school free because we wanted to be a wealthy nation and we understood the relationship between education and the economy. There's a great book called "The Race Between Education and Technology" that directly links the decision to expand education through high school to the technological innovations that we see today. And I think the question is, how far can we go as a country if, for example, we move to making the 13th and 14th grades, the next 2 years, part of that expansion.
Question 4: So much of what we're talking about at North Lake College and the District is this concept of equity, and we had that slide at the very beginning. And so, how do we expand that conversation to really include that social justice component, and we're not just talking about poverty, we're talking about race, we're talking about the intersectionality of gender, the institutional racism that is still very much embedded in our institutions, and so, it's a much larger conversation. How do we as a college begin to have those honest, courageous, difficult conversations to make sure that we see the full picture? We were at Achieving the Dream last week, and I think one of the things they said was that we can use poverty as a proxy to not talk about race, talk about some of these other things. And so, if you could just address that a little bit.
Sara Goldrick-Rab: Absolutely, and I talked about this in the plenary session, there. When we're talking about poverty, though, we are talking about racism. We are talking about capitalism. We are talking about larger issues. Poverty itself is not the first cause. The root cause of poverty are things like structural racism. And so, the challenge here is that when we say things like that, part of this room gets very uncomfortable. I mean, I know. I live in America too. But I urge you to take a look at the work that's coming out of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities in Philly; Mariana Chilton has been fighting hunger for years in a city where hunger continues to rise, including among the youngest people in our city. She's grown increasingly frustrated and she said, "I'm going to stop talking about poverty and we're gonna start talking about the real issues." Talking about discrimination. Talking about racism. Talking about the fact that the way the economy is structured, currently, we will always have people in poverty because the system's benefits from having people in poverty. That's the way the system is structured. If we don't talk about those things, we don't get anywhere. I think it's useful to have times when you do talk about these things, and then times when you focus on the sort of day-to-day because there really is sort of a cognitive overload. If you believe that you're being asked to do too much and you start going there, it can get overwhelming.
But I think that it is worth having those conversations, and I think you can have those conversations. I think "Born a Crime" is a great read. I would strongly suggest another. There are several other really good examples of books that have come out in the last couple of years that would be really good to lead those conversations. One of my favorite ones is "Eviction" by Matt Desmond. This really helps you to see that, for example, eviction has very high rates and has racial disparities throughout it, but it's not only happening because of bad landlords. They're not just "bad" people. They're also surviving. And if you come to understand that one of the only ways for them to survive IS through the eviction process that happens to so many, you start to understand why this is hard to solve. Although he has some really good solutions for solving it. So, I think that unpacking is important, and I would urge everybody to take any discomfort that you have or comfort with it, and just use it as an educational opportunity. This is all about growth. You may come to believe this is absolute nonsense, and at least your feeling on that will be rooted in data. Rooted in having had the conversation. I think that needs to be our goal and I think as educators, that approach is what we would expect of our students. They do not have to agree with you; they have to make a reasoned argument, so let's demand that of ourselves. I think there was someone right back there, and that'll be the last question.
Question 5: Okay, so I don't have, necessarily...I feel like I'm very loud, I'm so sorry! I don't necessarily have a question, I'm just providing information for everyone in the room. So, you talked about our Connections program and having that one contact person. That contact person is me. I'm actually in Disability Services, and so, if any students have a need that is not being met, you can bring them to my office. I'm new here, I've only been here a month.
Sara Goldrick-Rab: What's your name? Tell everybody.
Question 5: My name is Lyndsey Luther, and I'm the...you want me to stand up? Oh, gosh, okay.
Sara Goldrick-Rab: Lyndsey's gonna stand up. There's Lyndsey - send your homeless college students.
Question 5: I just want to let everyone know who I am so that way if you don't know where to go, you know to come to me. And just real quick, I'm in Disability Services; I have only been here for a month, I don't know everything, like if a student comes in and I don't know where to send them. I'm there to figure it out with them, so we're gonna work on it together. But I will say the biggest issue students have is being embarrassed. So, that's why they're not coming because embarrassment is really hard to deal with. And so, right now I'm just trying to find a way to make it easier for them to actually come to me. And I've given this to a few departments. I just gave it out this past week. I'm trying to just have a little half sheet that has the Connections logo, so that way if a student just wants to quietly grab one and bring it to our office. They don't even have to say what they're there for, they can just kind of show it and then they can come to my office, behind closed doors. And I actually had advisor Mya Andersen - she did a really good job because she walked a student up there to my office because the student knows their advisor and their professor, they don't know me. So if they have someone familiar there that they know, they're more likely to talk about what's going on so we can figure it out. So walking into my office is really huge. And you don't have to have an appointment. Just come in and talk to me if I'm available. I'm not gonna make you wait.
Sara Goldrick-Rab: That's great, so you can see the division of responsibility. Clear division of responsibility. You all are the front line. You see them, you notice the issue. You don't have to know for sure what the issue is. That's okay. But you see somebody who you think can benefit from the help? Get them to the person who is currently there. You're gonna need more help, by the way.
Question 5: Yeah, I know.
Sara Goldrick-Rab: And that's okay. This is a very normal, natural situation, and you will eventually have additional places to get connected to. But I think if you start to emphasize and talk in your classrooms about how you needed help, too, how you still need help every day; you normalize that and you explain it is nothing to be embarrassed about. It's actually a sign of resilience, and frankly, it is a sign of something that they're gonna need as a skill when they get to the workplace. What kind of boss wants a person who doesn't ask for help when they need it, and instead just messes it up. So, you are getting ready for the real world. So, they're already in the real world, that's what you need to really help them with. Thank you all so much for your time, I really appreciate it.