Applications open soon for the new grants announced last week by the Department of Education. The “$198 million in American Rescue Plan funding for students and institutions with the greatest unmet need” prioritizes community colleges and rural higher education institutions that serve a high percentage of low-income students and have experienced enrollment declines since the start of the pandemic. When these funds were first released last spring, HEI leaders were heartened to see the federal government stepping in and taking action as they worked to address the basic needs of their students, bridge the digital divide, and reinforce support systems.
This news could not be more timely as we think about AACRAO’s role in supporting today’s students, lifelong learners. The direction of our work is informed by the very real challenges faced by our member institutions as they seek to support their learners. For example, every spring and fall term since 2011, community college enrollments have experienced slight declines; our consulting team has secured funding to work with three state systems to address these enrollment challenges. Additionally, higher education stakeholders working to meet enrollment goals are focusing more on the unique needs of rural students, and members have access to research and thought leadership on the topic.
We have yet to see the full breadth of the ramifications of the Covid pandemic but what it has already unearthed revealed for me the true value of the AACRAO Community.
Implementers of Success
Higher education professionals have come together in extraordinary ways to get internet access to students where they are, to fill the food scarcity gaps, to bring childcare and transportation to students who need these supports. The AACRAO Community is doing the same. From enhancing degree audits to identifying factors that cause students to stop short of earning a degree, the work done behind the scenes is where our community shines. We manage the systems, we have direct access to the students, and we shape the practices. We are the implementers of success, and l look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in 2022.
Join AACRAO as we continue our work. Visit our Re-Envisioning Transfer page, where we will release our transfer designation, keep an eye out for the release of our Mentorship work group report, bookmark our Higher Ed Policy Database that we continue to update, and stay tuned for more.