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KC Spotlight: Socioeconomic and Class Issues in Higher Education

Region IV-W
August 4, 2020 Matt Newlin College Advising Corps

The fifth and final season of Last Chance U. premiered on Netflix this weekend. The popular docuseries - which is both inspiring, but not without controversy - follows a junior college football team over the course of a season, examining the highs and lows the players face as both students and athletes. In Season Five, the filmmakers follow the team at Laney College, a community college in Oakland, California, and the defending national junior college football champions. While past seasons of Last Chance U. have focused on teams at rural-serving community colleges in Kansas and Mississippi, this season relocates to a major urban community where the students face unique struggles as they compete and attempt to carve out a successful path for their futures. Regardless of the setting, however, Last Chance U. provides irrefutable proof of the challenges facing students of color, low-income students, and students who are first in their family to attend college. 

Last Chance U. should be required viewing for student affairs practitioners as we work to increase equity, improve graduation rates, create inclusive environments, and build strong leaders for the future. The issues examined in Last Chance U. are particularly relevant to the work of the Socioeconomic and Class Issues in Higher Education Knowledge Community (SCIHE KC). We strive to be dynamic and supportive around issues of class and socioeconomic status as they affect higher education. The SCIHE KC envisions an environment where student affairs educators have access to information, training, and resources that help them to understand how these issues alter the college and university landscape.

The upcoming academic year will be hard. As student affairs professionals, we will have to adapt to today’s uncertain world and change how we support our students. The SCIHE KC is developing resources to track food pantries for students facing food insecurity so campuses can learn from others how to build and sustain an indispensable resource for their students. We are also developing tools on creating a “basic needs roster” for students so institutions can better understand what their students need in order to be successful in school. The KC will also be leading an “I am Working Class” campaign to highlight the class inequities on campuses that affect both students and staff. 

A moving moment in the most recent season of Last Chance U. involves coach John Beam enlisting the assistance of his wife, a trained therapist, to help a student who is dealing with enormous amounts of stress on the field as well as in his personal life. This type of self-care is critical for us as higher education professionals. This includes being better about taking time to reflect on our own physical, mental, and emotional health. The SCIHE KC is working on new initiatives to support our colleagues, including resources for staff who are laid off or furloughed due to the pandemic or anyone who feels unsafe publicly supporting protests and Black Lives Matter demonstrations. We are in this together and the SCIHE KC will continue finding ways to support students and our colleagues as we get ready to start fall classes.