Student-Ready Campus Strategy

“Instead of striving and struggling to make students ready for college, we could work hard, as a society and locally, on individual campuses, to make college ready for students.(Becoming a Student-Ready College, Tia McNair, Susan Albertine, Michelle Asha Cooper, Nicole McDonald, and Thomas Major, 157).

Upholding our commitments to the civic mission requires us to dismantle the systemic injustice that permeates and is perpetuated in higher education. Central to this process is ensuring basic needs security for all students. Unmet basic needs encumber students’ capacity to successfully complete their programs of study and engage in the campus community. If we are to promote social change and civic agency as outcomes of higher education, we must recognize students’ basic needs insecurity as a fundamental threat. 

All basic needs insecurity is rooted in systemic injustice. When higher education institutions commit to becoming “student-ready,” they play a pivotal role in ending the replication and reproduction of systemic inequality.

“Becoming a student-ready college requires every person to have a sense of ownership and a level of participation in the ecosystem of the institution to make it successful. Full participation requires self-examination.” (Becoming a Student Ready Campus, McNair et al, 83) 

Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compact began coordinating a broad organizational strategy to support campuses in addressing basic needs insecurity in Fall 2019. While our Minnesota VISTA program in particular has focused on combating basic needs insecurity on college campuses, the experiences and insight those VISTA members and sites shared, combined with The Hope Center’s “Real College” survey results and other input from our partners across both states, helped us to recognize the urgency of developing a more concerted strategy in this area. 

Our efforts so far have focused on developing partnerships and strategies to support this work on campus while also strengthening the infrastructure of community-based anti-poverty organizations. We’ve funded AmeriCorps VISTA and State positions on campuses to build capacity for food pantries, student resource centers, and data collection on student needs. We’ve also centered our network engagement efforts around issues of basic needs insecurity:

  • We hosted our first-ever Student-Ready Campus Summit in Fall 2019. Bringing together faculty, staff, students, and community members to share strategies and resources for addressing food, housing, and other forms of basic needs insecurity in higher education, this event laid the groundwork for greater collaboration and commitments to student-ready campuses across our network. In the coming years, we will host virtual and in-person programming to continue building the connections fostered at this event. Stay tuned for Spring 2020 virtual programming announcements.
  • The Addressing Food Access on College Campuses Community of Practice  explored the role of partnerships and networks, building infrastructure for collaboration, and developing research, advocacy, and service strategies for establishing greater efficacy and sustainability in food access work. Our collective of faculty and staff professionals is working to address the crisis of student hunger through solutions that address the disconnects between campus and community-driven efforts.
  • On pause as our campus and community partners address the immediate challenges and crises of COVID-19, our Student-Ready Task Force advised IAMNCC in establishing long-term and systemic approaches to supporting campuses across Iowa and Minnesota in addressing basic needs insecurity. The group supported our efforts to assess what is already happening on campuses and in communities to address rising levels of basic needs insecurity in student populations and to determine what technical and adaptive solutions will help campuses in becoming “student-ready.”

We welcome your feedback, ideas, and questions as we continue to expand our efforts and network to build student-ready campuses across Iowa and Minnesota. Please browse this resource list to learn more about our recent efforts, and join our Slack or to get involved.