Sector Update: Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) June 2024

Social Impact Partners is excited to have been invited to partner with Connecticut State Colleges and Universities(CSCU). The overarching goal of this initiative is to help CSCU develop strategic priorities that meet the needs of students, families, employers, the CSCU system (leadership, faculty, staff), and the state and empower the system to thrive. CSCU has recently announced its partnership with Social Impact Partners –“ReNew CSCU”– emphasizing that developing and setting future strategic priorities will lead to a stronger CSCU and new opportunities for investment in the system.

Social Impact Partners’ CSCU efforts are focused on developing a data-driven assessment of the system – a landscape analysis, student performance analysis, economic and investment analysis – and gathering key stakeholder insights from students, staff, faculty, leadership, employers and other key stakeholders. Between April and May of this year, Social Impact Partners conducted more than 100 stakeholder meetings, including 65 focus groups across all 17 campuses. Key insights and themes have begun to emerge, largely around the need for heightened support for student success, especially those from under-resourced backgrounds. Students have shared the need for better advising, scheduling and additional support services like food pantries and transportation.

Social Impact Partners’ CSCU team lead, Chris Rivers, shared that higher education is a key driver of economic mobility but for several reasons, “CSCU [has been] underperforming on enrollment, completions and outcomes.” With the CSCU system currently serving over 85,000 students, many of them low-income and nontraditional students, this forward-thinking project and analysis is essential to ensure equitable access to quality education and career pathway opportunities for all individuals.

A number of volunteer partners are engaging with the staff team on this initiative, lending their skills in support of the data assessment and stakeholder engagement workstreams. The sustained work of volunteer partners will be instrumental in helping the team provide a North Star recommendation for CSCU, with a set of strategic priorities and best practices for success. Chris Rivers shared that these findings, both qualitative and quantitative, will be, “eye-opening in both positive and negative ways… hopefully all in a way that will spur people to action to really motivate change from the status quo.”

In addition to the data-driven assessment and stakeholder insights, Rivers shared that Social Impact Partners will also be developing a statewide early college plan for Connecticut working with CT State community colleges, CSCU and the State Department of Education. He also shared that the team will develop a roadmap to expand career-connected learning and curate best practices for career pathways. “The issues that the system has aren’t going to be solved by any one person at any one office. It’s going to be a team effort,” shared Rivers, emphasizing the important role each person plays in working together to see a stronger, supportive and sustainable CSCU system for all stakeholders.