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IUPUI hosts conference to improve retention, graduation of under-resourced students

For Immediate Release Nov 13, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS – IUPUI hosted the inaugural Engaging and Supporting Under-Resourced Students at IUPUI conference Nov. 1. The event aimed to improve the chances of success among students facing food, housing and other insecurities.

The conference was an extension of the Beyond Financial Aid initiative and addressed the gaps in federal Pell Grant recipients’ needs other than just paying tuition.

According to institutional research, 37 percent of IUPUI undergraduate students are Pell Grant recipients, marking them as low-income individuals. Additionally, the one-year retention rate for Pell Grant recipients who are first-time beginners – students attending the university without prior college experience – was 65 percent in 2015, compared to 74 percent for those not receiving a grant.

To address this student population’s unique needs, the IUPUI Division of Student Affairs’ Office of Student Advocacy and Support partnered with the Division of Enrollment Management, School of Social Work, School of Liberal Arts and Division of Undergraduate Education to offer a series of panels. Panelists discussed the steps faculty and staff can take to improve students’ experiences, leading them to persist through college and graduate at higher rates.

Chancellor Nasser H. Paydar delivered the conference’s opening remarks, calling for more awareness of the obstacles IUPUI students face, for faculty and staff to be more intentional about how they approach solutions to those obstacles, and for increasing the scale of existing programs for greater impact.

“We have to meet in the middle,” said Ty Davis, assistant dean of students and director of the Office of Student Advocacy and Support. “We have to teach under-resourced students how to lean on those resources that are available, but as an institution, we have to lean into students and meet them where they are. We have to be engaging with our students and connect them with those resources.”

Highlighted during the faculty and advisor panels was the importance of decreasing the cost of books and technology, finding innovative alternatives for students until they are able to cover those expenses, and making accommodations for students burdened by working off-campus or caring for dependents.

There was also a call for additional support for students experiencing imposter syndrome, or low levels of confidence and competency due to a lack of familiarity with college culture, family support as a first-generation student and/or a fragile sense of belonging on campus.

A third panel featured Indiana University alumni who identified as under-resourced during their college careers but were able to overcome challenges through university assistance.

“They all talked about how they got connected with resources in one way or another, whether it was through an organization or a faculty or staff member,” Davis said. “They gave really concrete examples of how our potential to retain our students increases when we connect them with resources. They all said, in their own way, ‘If I had not been connected with this resource, I would have left.’ And now they’re paying it forward in their current professional roles.”

The Office of Student Advocacy and Support spearheads a number of other initiatives as well, including Paw’s Pantry, the on-campus food bank that served more than 1,000 students, faculty and staff this fall semester, and the R.O.A.R. – Registry of Options and Resources – website to connect students with additional community resources.

The office is also leading Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, Nov. 13-17. As part of the national campaign, IUPUI will host a community dinner; food and menstrual product drives; and Weigh the Waste, demonstrating the amount of food waste created on campus throughout the week.

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