The Yes We Must Coalition strives to increase degree attainment of low-income students by promoting the work of small, independent, not-for-profit colleges and universities and others committed to this purpose.
They are building momentum for collaboration among member institutions that crosses institutional identity in order to understand what is being done right, what more can be done, and how an effective, collective voice can be developed to promote the success of low-income/1st generation students. With support from foundations including the Walmart Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and the Lumina Foundation, the Coalition has created a strategic plan and held a first national conference, Fulfilling Our Responsibility: Higher Education for the New Student Majority.
Members value the open and honest sharing of ideas, programs and challenges.Conference attendees described the conference as “an amazing opportunity to meet people and create connections to continue their discussions” and observed that “it was validating to hear about what other people are doing in similar institutions with challenges we all are facing.” Input from students and young alums was solicited in order to learn their perspectives on what programs make the most difference for their success. Such collaboration is on-going and characterizes the goals and culture of the Coalition.
Most recently they held a members-only Institute, Collaborating To Fulfill Our Responsibility to the New Student Majority, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation. Thirty-two member institutions sent a 3- or 4-person team composed of the president, a senior academic administrator, a senior finance or enrollment management person and a faculty member. Once again, the format of the Institute encouraged discussions among college teams and similar-position groups to explore ideas for collaborative projects to better serve low-income students. As at the conference, attendees valued the opportunity to come together to work with colleagues on common issues. Nine project ideas evolved from these discussions, and cross-campus groups are currently working together to develop the projects. The Coalition is providing assistance with coordination, finding funding, and project implementation. The collaborative work of the Coalition is on-going, and members are committed to working together to strengthen their students and their institutions.
The Coalition has earned national recognition for its advocacy for low-income/1st generation students and continues to be a strong voice on their behalf. It is a member of the Secretariat of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) and is recognized by The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC). Coalition members have met with the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and individuals from the White House Domestic Policy Council. Updates by the Senior Policy Advisor for Higher Education to the Secretary and Under Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education and the Executive Director of the National College Access Network were presented at the recent national conference.
Recognizing that all constituencies of a college or university have an impact on student success, the Coalition reaches out to the chief academic, development, finance and student life officers as well as to the presidents of its member institutions in order to promote constructive dialogue about issues faced by those in similar roles and how they can better support the students. The Coalition encourages data-based evaluation of all programs put in place to help students reach graduation.
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