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Absent Affirmative Action, How Higher Education Institutions Can Engage Underrepresented Students

How can we better support and empower underrepresented students?

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to effectively end affirmative action programs in college admissions (Harvard College and the University of North Carolina – UNC) spotlights an important question: How can we better support and empower underrepresented students?

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill responded to the decision by offering free tuition to North Carolina students if their parents make less than $80,000 per year. The university also hired additional outreach officers in admissions to serve “under-resourced communities.”

In announcing these changes, UNC Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said, “Our responsibility to comply with the law does not mean we will abandon our fundamental values as a university…Our University’s commitment to access and affordability and supporting a culture of belonging for everyone does not change with last week’s ruling.”

Areas for Improving Outreach and Communications

These are great steps, but colleges and universities can do more. Many students need assistance with efforts such as applying for financial aid or enrolling in classes. The problem is delivering that support to each student in a consistent, effective way.

Either students cannot access the right information or don’t know where to find it. In addition, a college’s communication channels may not be the ones students prefer. Accessibility is another impediment (e.g., not translating materials into a student’s native language).

Also, applying for financial aid is more complicated than ever. College and university personnel don’t often understand every aspect of the process. For instance, the FAFSA Simplification Act contains changes that financial aid departments must master before helping any student.

Another issue is personalization. Underrepresented students may have specific questions they need answers to but are not getting.

Helping You Better Engage and Support Underrepresented Students

At Ocelot, we aim to provide students and staff access to the right information at the right time. 

The Ocelot AI Communication Platform helps colleges and universities support underrepresented students in several ways:

  • Technology enabled outreach and recruitment: Ocelot provides information about your institution, its programs, financial aid options, and support services. These are tailored to the requirements of underrepresented students using our Chatbot and Live Chat solutions.
  • Accessible and inclusive online communication channels: Available 24/7 and with multilingual support.
  • Virtual advising and mentoring: Be where the students are, on any device. Support student recruitment and retention, and help improve graduation rates.
  • FAFSA Chatbot for staff: Help higher-ed staff understand the details and respond to student inquiries.
  • Data-driven insights and analytics: Identify areas where additional support may be required (based on questions being asked), and make data-informed decisions, such as creating new content, that will improve outcomes for underrepresented students.

Leave no student behind: By using Ocelot’s technology and AI solutions, colleges and universities can further their efforts to create a more equitable and inclusive environment for underrepresented students.

It’s well known that one of the main issues for underrepresented students is the ability to pay for higher education. It is our mission over the past 20 years, starting with financial aid, to help institutions provide accessible and up-to-date Financial Aid information to students on how to make a better life more accessible.

Don’t just take our word for it: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is already an Ocelot customer. Erica Corini, Associate Director in the Scholarships and Student Aid department, said, “As a large university having this additional tool available 24/7 is great for students, families and for staff!”

See how Ocelot can help you better support underrepresented students. Schedule your personalized product tour to learn more.

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Dive into the Ocelot experience. Request your demo today!

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