Financial, resource, & psychological impacts of COVID-19 on U.S. College students
This study investigated how students' finances, access to needed resources, and psychological well-being were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Center / October 04, 2022
How can you increase the effectiveness of your #AdvocateFirstgen efforts? Try leveraging one of the most powerful tools available to student success champions–data!
Defined as “factual information (such as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation,” data is crucial to those seeking to increase the persuasiveness of their arguments or policy positions. While narrative statements relating personal experiences are important for highlighting the impacts of policies or decisions, bolstering one’s narratives with facts or figures provides additional context and/or demonstrates the breadth and depth of policies’ or decisions’ effects.
Using data to demonstrate the success of particular supports that increase first-generation student retention, persistence, and completion can lead to additional financial investment in programs and services.
In our spaces, data plays a key role in elevating policy positions designed to benefit first-generation college students. The Double Pell campaign serves as an important case study demonstrating the power of data. The Double Pell campaign highlights several simple, yet critical, facts that create a powerful narrative to underscore the necessity of an increase in benefits:
Nearly 7 million students receive Pell Grants.
This fact conveys the large number of college students who would be affected by a potential benefit increase.
While Pell Grants used to cover more than 75% of the costs of attending a four-year public institution, they now cover less than 33% of similar costs.
This fact highlights a substantial decrease in the purchasing power of these grants and demonstrates the urgency of the issue.
Nearly 90% of Pell Grants go to students whose families’ incomes are less than $50,000 annually.
This fact highlights both the importance of the funds to college students with lower family incomes and that the funds are going to the students with the greatest need.
The campaign relies on additional data points, such as the numbers of students from historically underserved groups (including BIPOC students, student parents, first-generation students, and military-connected students), to demonstrate how the grants help a variety of today’s college students. This data demonstrates the widespread use of Pell Grants by various populations within the U.S., which can make the argument to increase the amount more compelling to decision-makers who identify with these groups themselves.
While anecdotes are important, bolstering one’s narratives with facts or figures provides additional context and demonstrates the breadth and depth of policies’ or decisions’ effects.
While the goal of doubling the size of Pell Grants remains, the advocacy efforts of multiple organizations in the higher education sector achieved results–thanks in large part to their effective use of data. Earlier this year, President Biden signed bipartisan legislation to fund the government through September 2022. This bill included a $400 increase to the maximum Pell Grant for the 2022-2023 award year–the largest increase since the 2009-2010 award year.
This example (and others related to national and state advocacy work), can be applied to institutional contexts as well. By gathering, reviewing, and analyzing data related to first-generation student status, practitioners can advocate for additional resources to support first-generation student success.
Institutional leadership strives to maximize the impact of the often scarce resources under their control. Using data to demonstrate the success of particular programs or other supports that increase first-generation student retention, persistence, and completion can lead to additional financial investment in programs and services. Even data collected from pilot initiatives can support advocacy efforts centered around securing additional funding to make incremental program expansions. Taken together, it’s clear from the above examples that combining statistics and anecdotes from those affected by policies and funding decisions can help you to create a compelling narrative to #AdvocateFirstgen with greater effectiveness.