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Program Seeks to Improve Student Attainment at Minority-Serving Schools

Program Seeks to Improve Student Attainment at Minority-Serving Schools


Two higher education groups have come together to launch a five-year initiative to improve retention, achievement and institutional effectiveness at minority-serving institutions.

The project, Building Engagement and Attainment of Minority Students (BEAMS), was announced earlier this month by the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE), in partnership with the National Survey for Student Engagement (NSSE).

The BEAMS Project — supported by a grant from the Lumina Foundation for Education — serves 150 four-year colleges and universities from the Alliance for Equity in Higher Education. All participating institutions will work with AAHE, NSSE and each other to analyze the scope and character of their students’ engagement in their learning and to implement well-designed action plans to improve engagement, learning, persistence and success.

“Despite the progress made in expanding college access for people of color, a significant gap in college graduation rates still exists,” says Martha D. Lamkin, Lumina Foundation president and CEO. “This project has the opportunity to build on what’s already working at minority-serving institutions and inform all postsecondary institutions on how to better support and graduate more students of color.”

The program will help campuses move toward their institutional goals in several ways, beginning with data from students about their engagement and learning. In spring of 2003, 50 campuses will administer NSSE, a national survey in which students respond to questions about their learning and campus experiences. Additional campuses will administer NSSE in 2004 and 2005.

“Institutional change cannot happen effectively when the student voice is excluded or minimized,” says Dr. Yolanda T. Moses, president of AAHE. “The survey allows students to tell us how their campus experience — in and out of the classroom — has contributed to their learning. Institutions that use data from students can then choose strategies that support student learning and success.”

Using the NSSE results, participating campuses will create action plans to enhance student engagement and learning that lead to the attainment of student and institutional goals. BEAMS campuses will convene at the 2004, 2005 and 2006 AAHE Summer Academies to develop concepts and strategies in the company of AAHE and NSSE staff, and a consortium of teams working on similar initiatives. BEAMS participants then will continue to interact with other campuses, AAHE and NSSE throughout the implementation of their plan.

Participating campuses will have the opportunity at AAHE national conferences to report on initiatives and progress that emerge from their use of NSSE information.

These reports will highlight the significant work at minority-serving institutions toward fostering student engagement, learning and success, and knowledge for the entire higher education community.

“The success of BEAMS is not limited to the participating campuses,” says Barbara Cambridge, AAHE’s vice president of programs and BEAMS’ project director. “We’re hoping to shed light on the importance of increasing the use of evidence for decision-making processes, of listening to students’ voices, and of working with consortia in collaborative projects.”

For more information, visit the project’s Web site at .

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