Equity in Everything is our bold, yet simple approach to how LeadMN has worked to integrate equity and inclusion into all pillars of our organizational practices, services and policies.
Our commitment is to build communities of students and leaders who firmly embody these ethos as part of our fight for educational access and success. We do this by making certain that students lead and are at the forefront, whether it be serving on committees within the system or on campuses; advocating and leading conversations on system change; or creating space and flexibility in recognizing different groups of students and their needs. By listening to students, first and foremost. We are moving toward a future where equity, access, and inclusion are embedded into the fabric of LeadMN.
Campus Scorecard Project
This year we sought to bring data transparency to how the 30 colleges perform around student success with six key benchmarks: attainment, developmental education, transfer, affordability, equity, and voting. We assign institutions a grade for how effectively they perform on each benchmark.
By democratizing who has this data out of just the college president’s office, we hope to jump start robust conversation on campuses among faculty, staff and students about how campuses can do a better job of serving students and take meaningful steps to address opportunity gaps.
LeadMN staff and cabinet have participated in over 126 hours of equity and inclusion trainings
Our role is to hold the system accountable and ensure student voices are heard and uplifted as it works to implement the Equity 2030 initiative. LeadMN has joined a coalition of faculty, staff and students that are working to “center the voices of those most impacted.”
The coalition seeks to eliminate educational and opportunity gaps at all of Minnesota State’s colleges and universities. In November of 2021, LeadMN signed onto a coalition letter outlining our advocacy priorities for this academic year around Equity 2030.
Basic Needs Committee
In November of 2020 Minnesota State launched an ad hoc Basic Needs Committee. This committee was created at the urging of LeadMN and others. This committee’s membership is made up of a majority of students appointed by LeadMN and Students United.
In February, LeadMN shared with the committee a draft proposal for a new system-wide basic needs policy which included a variety of best practices to help support students’ basic needs. This policy draft provided the foundation for the ad hoc committees campus basic needs recommendations that would be approved in May. Nearly 85% of the recommendations provided in the ad-hoc committee’s campus recommendations were directly adopted from LeadMN’s proposed system-wide basic needs policy.
During the 2021 legislative session, LeadMN was successful in introducing and passing major legislation on both mental health and basic needs.
Basic Needs Barrier Reduction Act
Includes $1 million and requires colleges to create and maintain a webpage clearly identifying basic needs resources available at the college or university and a point of contact students may direct questions to on campus, and to implement initiatives or campaigns that raise awareness among students about SNAP eligibility.
Under this legislation Minnesota State must also create a centralized basic needs resource webpage that raises awareness of campus, local, state, and national resources that address basic needs for students and develop a process to automatically provide students information on programs like SNAP based on their FAFSA or other financial aid documents when they enroll.
Both of these critical pieces of legislation have now moved to the Minnesota State ad-hoc Basic Needs Committee where the committee will assist in providing feedback and accountability of their implementation.
"My internship and scholarship at LeadMN have not only been a learning journey but also helped me a great deal with my mental health, by working in an environment where equity and inclusion is put up front."
HUNGER FREE CAMPUS
In January 2021, LeadMN awarded three additional colleges the Hunger Free Campus designation, bringing the total to nineteen colleges who have received the designation in the past two years.
Originally passed in 2019, the Hunger Free Campus Act outlines a roadmap of five criteria for colleges to implement to help address the issue of food insecurity among college students. Once a college meets these criteria they are designated as a Hunger Free Campus.
During the 2021 legislative session, LeadMN was successful in advocating for $307,000 in legislative funding that will go towards a competitive grant program to support campuses’ work on achieving and maintaining the Hunger Free Campus designation. Because we know that hunger doesn’t stop when a student transfers from a college to a university, LeadMN also joined with university student groups in successfully advocating for an expansion of the Hunger Free Campus Act to public and private non-profit universities, and tribal colleges.
In spring of 2021, LeadMN began hearing from students about significant issues around receiving tuition refunds when dropping out due to COVID-19, caring for a family member who contracted COVID-19, and mental health crises. In response, LeadMN recommended policy changes to Minnesota State to make the tuition waiver and refund policies more clear and inclusive of the challenges that today’s students face.
In October, Minnesota State announced a section in its tuition waiver procedure that would allow students to receive refunds beyond the drop period for extraordinary circumstances, including “medical reasons, college or university error, an employment related condition, military duty, change in course conditions, or other significant personal circumstances.”
This change is a major step forward in making sure our system’s policies are responsive and equitable for the students who attend our community and technical colleges.
MN College Mental Health Awareness Act
Provides $1.5 million in funding and requires each college and university to implement a mental health awareness program by the 2022-23 academic year, which includes the following components:
- A web page the has links to self-assessment resources and connects students to campus and community resources on mental health;
- Mental health first aid, evidence-based suicide prevention training, or similar mental health training for faculty, staff, and students who may have increased contact with students facing mental health crises;
- An orientation session that provides information about maintaining good mental health, mental health conditions common among college students, and mental health resources and services available to students;
- A messaging strategy to send students at least one per term, and during periods of high stress, information on mental health resources available to students;
- Distribution of the suicide prevention helpline and textline in a way that increases visibility to students;
- The Minnesota State Board of Trustees must also create a mental health community of practice.