Holistic Student Supports

Every student deserves to be valued and supported.

Minnesota’s college leaders must work alongside students, staff, and faculty to understand and address the racial realities of students of color and American Indian students.

Higher ed must meet students where they are—as assets to the college and the community.

Racially-equitable student supports consider the specific context of an individual student and/or context of specific student populations, along racial lines, to leverage their generational and ancestral knowledge in order to ensure students fall outside of the margins are received as whole and complete; not as deficit students who need to be fixed.

Holistic supports must honor the needs and goals of Minnesota’s POCI students

Minnesota’s POCI students are more likely to have lower family incomes; they are more likely to be older and often head of households; they are more likely to be transfer students; and they are more likely to go to two-year state colleges and attend college part-time.

Developing a transfer receptive culture to undo systemic racism

A “transfer receptive culture” explicitly acknowledges the roles of race and racism in the transfer process from a community college to a university and centers transfer supports, outreach, and resources as essential to building equity in the higher education pipeline.

What Minnesota lawmakers can do right now

To make progress at increasing the enrollment, persistence, and completion rates of POCI students, Minnesota must remove institutional barriers POCI students face as transfer students.

This year, Minnesota lawmakers can advance a bill that will:

Ensure funding for fiscal year 2023 is appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner of the Office of Higher Education for grants to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system campuses to pursue innovations in student transfer aimed at shortening the time to degree completion and minimizing excess credits.

Innovations eligible under this grant include but are not limited to counselor-navigator hubs in which three or more navigators work with one counselor to assist students transferring. Priority shall be given to proposals that partner two-year colleges and four-year universities. The commissioner may use no more than five percent of the amount appropriated under this subdivision to administer the program.

Redefining student supports on Minnesota campuses

Achieving the Dream defines “supports” as the cohesive suite of services that help students address the academic and nonacademic factors vital to success.

Holistic student supports embody an intentional focus on the types of services (not just quantity), the ways in which those services are delivered, and how students connect to the services.


Services must be aligned with student needs, so an institution must understand who its students are, their responsibilities outside the classroom, the life factors they are juggling, and the strengths they bring to their college experience. Key services include everything from academic advising and planning to financial coaching and planning to transportation and child care assistance.


A one-size-fits-all approach to delivering supports does not acknowledge the diversity of students’ needs, experiences, strengths, and personalities. Colleges must employ high-touch services, such as intensive one-on-one advising, coaching, or counseling sessions, and low-touch services, such as student first-year success courses, designed to center racial equity.


The essence of a holistic student supports approach is a culture shift in which colleges
intentionally design and offer services both broadly and strategically, so that students can access each service when they need it most. Colleges must understand that some services are a critical need for a subset of students, such as one-on-one financial coaching or access to food, housing, or emergency aid.

Creating a culture of belonging for all students

Intersectional supports are critical for building just and inclusive education spaces.

One in five college students today is a parent, and despite having higher GPAs than their non-parenting peers, an estimated 52 percent of undergraduate student parents leave school without a degree within six years.

Many systems are not designed for student parent success, but local and federal policies can help change this. Generation Hope offers key policy priorities for advancing racial equity at colleges and universities by uplifting voices of student parents, advancing family-friendly campuses, and removing barriers to childcare and family-sustaining wages.

Intersectionality and mental health supports

How can campuses integrate services to better support intersectional identities and experiences of students of color?

Modernizing student supports

How colleges and institutions in Minnesota and across the country are working to build innovative models that center students of color and American Indian students.

Building innovative, equity-centered models at the University of Minnesota

“This work must be both at the local, immediate, one-on-one student support level, but also must be at the campus climate, law, and policy level.”Fernando Rodriguez–Director, Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence

“Having access to good counselors and therapists and psychiatrists on campus is really, really important, because entering higher education as a student of color can be a triggering experience.”

In Illinois, Black student enrollment in the state’s colleges and universities dropped drastically between 2013 and 2018. Now leaders at education higher education institutions, students, and lawmakers are developing policies and practices that prioritize Black students—including trauma-informed, antiracist mental health services for Black students on campus.

Seeing students for who they are and where they’ve been is essential for honoring the experiences of all students.

How precollege experiences and students’ identities shape the challenges they face and connections they make in postsecondary education—and what higher-ed institutions are doing to center their needs and help them succeed.

“Being with other Filipino/x who look like you—it’s an exhilarating and empowering feeling.”

The University of Santa Cruz in California is building its Kuya-Ate Mentorship Program, a student-initiated retention project targeted to, but not limited to, Filipino/x students at UC Santa Cruz.