Critical Safety, Wellbeing, and Inclusion Issues on Campus

September 19, 2022
  • Technological Knowledge
  • corporate
Photograph of individual preventing dominoes from falling.

Sponsored by Vector Solutions

As an enrollment and admissions professional, are the quality of your institution’s health, safety, and well-being efforts on your radar? Are you highlighting your institution’s investment in these key areas? If not, you should be. Here’s why. 

Safety, well-being, and inclusion are critical components of solving the challenges higher education is facing when it comes to declining enrollment, increased competition, rising costs, changing expectations and demographics, and growing questions about the value and relevance of a college degree. And, while nearly every campus leader believes that safety, well-being, and inclusion are important, these issues are often too underfunded and understaffed to achieve their transformational potential. And here’s the irony: while these issues often reside at the margins of the mission and business of higher education, they are central to the strategic, bottom-line priorities that presidents, cabinets, and boards care about most. 

Business Perspective

From a business perspective, investing in these areas helps colleges and universities keep pace with the expectations of students as customers - creating the conditions for them to acquire the knowledge and skills they’re paying for to become conscientious global citizens who can thrive in their careers and communities.

Mission Perspective

From a mission perspective, safety, well-being, and inclusion efforts can change the trajectory of our students' lives -- empowering students to be able to achieve their full potential and removing the barriers that keep them from thriving. 

Student Feedback

Business and mission meet in the decisions that students and families make in the college application process. Today’s Gen Z students are increasingly making socially conscious consumer decisions and are oriented towards activism. They’re also much more focused on both safety and the importance of belonging to a community. And these priorities are evident in their college selection priorities. Recently, the Campus Prevention Network collected data from nearly 5,000 high school seniors, asking them about how important issues of safety, well-being, and inclusion were in their college decision-making process. Over 80% of students said that these issues were as important to them as academic rigor when selecting the college they planned to attend. 

However, roughly 40% of these students felt that it was difficult to find information about campus programs, policies, and procedures regarding issues of safety, well-being, and inclusion.

When colleges and universities make this information visible to students, it can play a key role in positively influencing their enrollment decisions. On the other hand, if schools don’t meet Gen Z expectations around issues like sexual assault, harassment, hazing, or discrimination, the resulting decline in applications admissions officers can expect is equivalent to a 10-ranking drop in US News & World Report Ranking. 

Impact of Addressing Safety and Health Issues

But the positive impact of high-quality safety and well-being initiatives on the mission and business of higher education institutions extends far beyond application pool and yield. 

Unfortunately, too many institutional leaders shy away from talking about how their campuses address these health and safety, and inclusion threats, out of fear that mentioning these issues at all will dissuade students from attending. For example, when we looked at senior executive visibility on key health and safety issues across a representative nationwide sample of colleges and universities, we discovered that in the past 12 months over half of college presidents have spoken publicly about issues like sexual assault only once or not at all. In today’s landscape, colleges and universities don’t distinguish themselves by avoiding these issues; rather, they distinguish themselves by how they are addressing the challenges that keep presidents—and parents—awake at night. 

Distinction with Vector Solutions

So what does distinction look like? By analyzing data gathered through Vector Solutions’ Campus Prevention Network from hundreds of colleges and universities, we have found that leading prevention institutions approach their work very differently from the average campus. They invest 3x more in their budgets. They have twice as many prevention professionals on staff. They regularly engage in goal setting, strategic planning, and policy reviews. And they drive outcomes that go above and beyond safety, well-being, and inclusion. These leading campuses are also able to retain and graduate their students at significantly higher rates than other institutions. The tuition revenue these institutional investments in safety and well-being drive more than pays for their cost. 

Furthermore, leaders of preeminent institutions talk about their investments in prevention, their safety, inclusion, and well-being goals, and the progress they’ve made toward achieving their goals. For example, in comparison to the data point shared earlier, nearly two-thirds of presidents at leading prevention institutions spoke publicly about critical well-being, safety, and inclusion issues three or more times in the past 12 months. 

We believe that there is even more opportunity to spotlight those institutions that are investing in the areas that college applicants tell us they care about above other selection criteria. In 2020, the Campus Prevention Network launched the Seal of Prevention to distinguish colleges and universities that have met evidence-based standards for the quality of their online safety, well-being, and inclusion programs. In the past year, nearly 500 institutions earned this distinction. These Seal recipients are maximizing technology to strengthen and scale their efforts to address issues like sexual assault, substance misuse, mental health, and discrimination. 

Network Seal of Prevention

The Seal of Prevention gives institutions a framework for elevating their impact and a platform to be recognized for their commitment. Through collaborations with industry partners like Parchment, the Seal of Prevention is integrated directly into the enrollment process so prospective students and their parents can identify institutions that align with their values and expectations. While any institution may earn the Seal of Prevention, those colleges and universities that already partner with Vector Solutions are automatically considered for this distinction. When asked whether they would be more likely to attend a campus that has achieved the Campus Prevention Network Seal of Prevention, over one-third of prospective students in our study said “yes.”

Increasing both the commitment and visibility of your well-being, safety, and inclusion will provide benefits across the entire institution and maximize the return on your prevention investment. It’s the right--and smart--thing to do.


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