Higher education leaders, faculty, students and community members came together at UCI on Valentine’s Day for the Facilitating Social Mobility in Higher Education Symposium to discuss new solutions, share best practices, and dream of ways to overcome obstacles for students of disadvantages backgrounds from receiving a college education. The daylong event included an impressive list of guest speakers, including UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman, and UCI vice provost for teaching and learning Michael Dennin.
Most of the questions raised involved the socio-economic stratification of those accepted into premier universities versus those who go to community colleges or unable to attend altogether due to the high cost and acceptance standard. The advantages of coming from a high-income background were analyzed at length. The speakers addressed that higher income students get a leg up – not only in their financial resources, but in their understanding of the application process, adjusting to life as a college student, and even believing that they are capable of higher education in the first place.
That’s why the focus of the symposium was on reaching out to underserved student communities and listening to what their actual needs are. Most of these needs start with the basic food and housing that 13 percent of college students are lacking. The symposium’s closing message was that finding compassionate solutions to real student problems starts with approaching them from an identity neutral position, and using identity conscious strategies to bridge the gap between the institution and the individual.