Opinion | The university needs to be transparent about their student initiatives

While creating programs to help recruit and retain students, especially minority and first-generation, the University of Iowa should be transparent about these plans.


Gabby Drees

A visitor picks out a book at the Iowa City Public Library on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.

Yassie Buchanan, Opinions Columnist

While transitioning back to in-person learning and living, students have faced a variety of challenges, the university needs to be transparent about what initiatives are being introduced for students.

President Barbara Wilson mentioned in an October interview with The Daily Iowan how there are programs in place to address retention rates for Pell Grant-eligible students as well as other student categories. Wilson said the more money and time that is put into these situations, the better the outcome will be.

I do agree time and money need to be put into programs for the retention of students, but there should also be more transparency in addressing this population directly since these initiatives are meant for them.

Through the pandemic, underrepresented minority students and first-generation students experienced disproportionate challenges in comparison to their peers. Research showed many of these students had higher expectations when it came to helping their peers and were reported to have experienced more food and economic insecurity.

Even further, Black and Hispanic students were reported to have increased leaves of absence during the spring semester by 206 and 287 percent according to the National Student Clearing House Research Center.  In comparison, white students were reported to have increased leaves of absence by 70 percent.

In general, retention rates and graduation rates for students of color are lacking. The state Board of Regents 2020 report showed that the students’ of color graduation rate was lower than the white student graduation rate for all of Iowa’s public universities.

With so many minority and first-generation students facing additional challenges this past year, this population deserves a platform at the university to express their needs and have initiatives that speak to them.

In addition to many first-gen and underrepresented minority students facing increased challenges with online learning, Latino/a/x students have been found to be more likely to not return to campus the longer they take time off.

Many of these students are facing lingering challenges and the university needs to be open about how they are going to address these. In order to retain these students, there should have been, and needs to be, plans in place to help students who have taken a semester off transition back into being on campus. The university also needs programs that address at-home situations many students experienced through the pandemic, like food insecurity.

I remember doing the Iowa Edge program, a program to introduce minority and first-generation students to campus during my freshman year. I enjoyed being able to connect and get oriented to campus with other students coming from a minority background.

While this program was a good way to introduce minority and first-gen students, I think there could be a more concrete way to integrate programs like Iowa Edge with the cultural houses and other initiatives on campus catered toward minority or first-generation populations to create lasting connections and involvement.

Programs like the Iowa Edge program should continue to be expanded on and invested in with the input of the students they are aiming to involve.

In order to address inequities within the university, students of color and first-generation students need to be aware of and have a voice in the initiatives meant for them.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.