Higher Education

higher education

Higher education includes a wide range of institutions providing study beyond the level of secondary education, such as colleges and universities, community colleges, and vocational and technical schools. Higher education administrators, prevention coordinators, and community members play an important role in addressing risk factors and promoting safe and supportive environments to maximize opportunities for student success and academic achievement.

NCSSLE  resources are based on evidence-based approaches that promote positive behaviors and norms and include:

  • environmental management through policy change
  • intervention and treatment programs for students experiencing problems
  • health promotion programs to support positive behaviors and student success

Areas to Explore

Stay Informed

NCSSLE releases a bi-monthly Higher Education e-Digest. Each e-Digest includes resources from the U.S. Department of Education (ED), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and partner agencies, examples of effective field practice, new NCSSLE resources, and relevant learning opportunities.

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Featured Resources

Truths About DEI on College Campuses

The USC Race and Equity Center released a new report in response to politicized attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in higher education. Truths About DEI on College Campuses: Evidence-Based Expert Responses to Politicized Misinformation, the 62-page document, was produced by Shaun Harper, our center’s founder and executive director.

Key Mental Health in Higher Education Stats

Student mental health in U.S. postsecondary education is a top concern of institutional leaders, administrators, and policymakers. While over one-third of college students indicate that they have positive mental health, data show a large share of students are facing mental health challenges. Several key published statistics on mental health representing the 2022–23 academic year are highlighted to provide an overview of this issue.

The Student Mental Health Landscape

According to the results of a new survey by Wiley, an increasing number of students are facing emotional health difficulties. This is directly impacting on their educational challenges and preferences, with a growing need for hybrid methods of learning. And as the stigma around mental health is perceived to be decreasing, more students are seeking out professional help – a trend many see continuing into the next five years.

Healthy Minds Study

The Healthy Minds Study provides a detailed picture of mental health and related issues in college student populations. Schools typically use their data for some combination of the following purposes: to identify needs and priorities; benchmark against peer institutions; evaluate programs and policies; plan for services and programs; and advocate for resources. 

Student Mental Health Is in Crisis

Amid massive increases in demand for care, psychologists are helping colleges and universities embrace a broader culture of well-being and better equipping faculty to support students in need.

Restorative Justice in Higher Education

As the scope of higher education evolves, restorative justice as a means to respond to harm in a community has come to the forefront on college campuses. Formerly concentrating primarily on student misconduct, restorative justice in higher education now finds itself engrained across various departments in institutions including student affairs, academic affairs, human resources and beyond. 

Challenges and Opportunity

Community colleges are a critical component of the U.S. higher education system, providing access to students from traditionally underserved communities. However, enduring challenges to completion stemming from educational, economic, and social inequities persist. Building on prior work that examines barriers to student success and their relationship to student outcomes, this paper examines the relationship between community college students’ academic persistence and their time utilization, engagement with campus resources, and financial and mental well-being. It also examines the relative

How America Completes College

The second edition of Sallie Mae’s How America Completes College 2024 report focuses on the experiences of current undergraduate students and considers the real-time barriers to graduation. This year’s report identifies key factors impacting a student’s journey from accessing higher education to completing their degree or program of study.

Five Imperatives to Help Community Colleges Re-Enroll Stopped-Out Students

Re-enrollment success doesn’t materialize from a one-size-fits-all solution. But how can you tailor the re-enrollment processes at your community college to fit the individual needs of students who have stopped out? With the goal of sharing the best practices and lived experiences from experts across the community college and higher education landscape, our comprehensive guide is designed to answer this question.

Advancing What Works

This compilation identifies evidence-based programs at the forefront of improving higher educational achievement for Latinos. These programs emphasize cultural responsiveness and take asset-based approaches to intentionally serving Latinos, as well as other post-traditional students, in five key areas.

Race and Economic Mobility

Our latest brief examines economic outcomes for students who complete their degrees at Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). The analysis finds that graduates from HSIs have similar wages and earnings premiums to their peers at other institutions, despite decades of underinvestment from state and federal policymakers. However, borrowers from HSIs owe an average of 80% of their loan balance, while non-HSI borrowers owe just 69%.

New Federal Data Confirm That College Students Face Significant—and Unacceptable—Basic Needs Insecurity

For the first time in its 36-year history, the federal government released data on students experiencing food insecurity and homelessness as part of the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS). As a result, the 2019-20 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:20) contains the first nationally representative data on food insecurity and homelessness among undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in postsecondary education in the United States. The newly released statistics confirm that colleges and universities of all types serve undergraduate and graduate students

University Innovation Alliance Announces Ambitious New Project to Help Students Succeed in Critical College Courses

The University Innovation Alliance, the multi-university laboratory working to improve student success, today announced a $3.5 million grant led by Ascendium in support of an ambitious project to diagnose and address high DFW (drop, withdraw, or fail) rates, especially for students of color and those from low-income backgrounds.

Implementing College and Career Pathways in Rural Communities

College and career pathways are a critical strategy for supporting economic development in rural communities and creating economic advancement opportunities for youth. However, implementing pathways requires recognizing rural communities’ unique needs and opportunities. This report outlines three promising strategies for implementing rural pathways: build on local strengths and context, prioritize inclusive economic development, and embed remote opportunities.

Community Colleges: Building Pathways to the Future

The American postsecondary education system has seen many transformations, but none so democratic and revolutionary as the founding of the first community college in Joliet, Illinois in 1901. Then-president of the University of Chicago William Harper Rainey, and several other influential university presidents, were convinced that for America to grow and prosper, an accessible pathway was needed to open postsecondary education to all. As a result, community colleges were born.

Benefits of Conducting a Biennial Review

Conducting a thorough and rigorous biennial review is great practice, and provides those implementing a comprehensive substance misuse prevention program -- inclusive of policy, education and student assistance, enforcement, campus needs assessment, and campus/community collaboration -- an opportunity to reflect what is going well, determine where improvements need to be made, and strategically plan how to maintain and strengthen the overall efforts of a campus to address alcohol and other drug use.

2024 Lumina-Gallup State of Higher Education Study

In the fall of 2023, Gallup surveyed 6,015 currently enrolled students, 5,012 U.S. adults who were previously enrolled in an education program after high school but had not completed a degree, and 3,005 adults who had never enrolled in higher education on behalf of Lumina Foundation. The surveys were conducted via a web-based survey using an opt-in panel. Results from the 2024 Lumina-Gallup State of Higher Education Study indicate:

Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education

Making higher education a more safe, inclusive, and respectful place where everyone can work and learn. The Action Collaborative brings together leaders from academic and research institutions and key stakeholders to move beyond basic legal compliance to evidence-based policies and practices for addressing and preventing all forms of sexual harassment and promoting a campus climate of civility and respect.

What You Need to Know About Building a Collegiate Recovery Program

Starting a collegiate recovery program (CRP) can seem like a daunting task, especially in the beginning stages.  It is important to have a vision and long-term goals, and it is even more important to have a plan. This document is intended to help you get started in your planning process. Since every campus has its own unique culture, this document is not intended to be a step-by-step how-to guide, but rather it is something every school can adapt in its own way in order to meet the needs of students in recovery on that campus.

NCAA Student-Athlete Health and Wellness Study

This substance use study is based on data collected in a comprehensive study of student-athlete health and wellness during the 2022-23 academic year. This is the 10th study conducted by the NCAA since 1985 that has examined the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco by student-athletes.

Advancing Black Student Success and Elevating Black Excellence in the California State University: A Call to Action

In fall 2022, Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester charged the CSU leadership to redouble efforts in supporting and advancing Black student success. A strategic workgroup developed both an approach that centered the student experience and voice as well as recommendations that challenge the CSU to think broadly and act boldly. The resulting report articulates 13 systemwide recommendations designed to catalyze the cultural change urgently needed to advance Black student success and create a potential model for other institutions of higher education.

National Rural College Completion Trends, Challenges, and Solutions

This brief highlights key facts and barriers rural students and Rural-Serving Institutions face, make recommendations to address them, and raise the importance of centering the diversity of rural communities in completion research and policy.  

Food Insecurity in Tennessee Higher Education

This report explores food insecurity across public institutions of higher education in Tennessee and the strategies and interventions used to mitigate student hunger on their campuses. To produce this report, THEC conducted a comprehensive literature review; convened a statewide meeting of practitioners, researchers, and policy advocates on food insecurity in higher education; and surveyed campus administrators across the state on current initiatives.

Staying Safe on Campus: A Guide for Families

Staying Safe on Campus: A Guide for Families is designed for those looking to make informed decisions about their child's safety and well-being on a college campus.

First-generation College Students’ Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic: 2020

Describes the experiences of first-generation undergraduate students during the early COVID-19 pandemic, from January to June 2020. The statistics shown include the percentage of first-generation students who withdrew from their college, who had difficulty accessing or paying for food, and who received emergency financial assistance through their college.

Prevention with Purpose: A Strategic Planning Guide for Preventing Drug Misuse Among College Students

In this 2024 edition of the guide – first published in 2020 – you will find updated data, profiles highlighting real-life stories from campus prevention professionals focused on a unique or innovative approach to the Strategic Prevention Framework, ideas for building considerations of cultural factors into each step of the SPF, and five strategies for success during times of disruption to campus life.

A group of students talking together.

Presents data on youth mental health and suicide, outlining the extent of the problem, investigating contributing factors, and proposing effective, evidence-based action to reduce suicide risk for teens and young adults.

Policing on Campus

Tackles the institutionalization of policing in higher education campus safety and management. 

Cover image of the Addressing Basic Needs Security in Higher Education: An Introduction to Three Evaluations of Supports for Food and Housing at Community Colleges resource

Evaluates three new promising approaches to addressing food and housing insecurity. All three programs were developed by community colleges and their partners based on their local needs, resources, and opportunities. 

Cover image of A Guide to Campus Mental Health Action Planning resource

Guide campuses through a step-by-step process for designing a plan to promote the mental health of all students and get help for students who are stressed, struggling, or distressed. A list of references and resources planners can consult for additional assistance is included at the end of the guide.

Cover image of the College Completion Toolkit resource

Highlights promising practices from a dozen schools across the country that are doing the hard work of increasing college completion rates for students on their campuses. The report contains links to resources and stories written by institutions themselves and will serve as an additional resource for schools as they seek to promote student degree completion.

Cover image of the Coronavirus Hits Campus resource

Compiles articles on coronavirus as they related to higher education. The advent of the novel coronavirus, which causes a disease known as Covid-19, has affected a host of campus issues, including foreign study and travel by students and faculty members, international-student enrollments, campus health, and whether to hold mass events such as conferences, sporting events, and commencements. This page includes links to The Chronicle’s key coverage of how this worldwide crisis affected college campuses.

Cover image of the Guide to Assessing Basic Needs Insecurity in Higher Education resource

Describes how to perform two types of studies: (1) surveys to assess basic needs security; and (2) opportunistic small scale experiments to evaluate the effectiveness of programs meant to address basic needs security. Drawing on experiences conducting research on basic needs security at colleges around the nation, the team at the Wisconsin HOPE Lab produced this guide to support colleges' and universities' own efforts. Guidance is also provided for evaluations of programs developed to support needs security. 

Cover page of ICAC/iKeepSafe Incident Response Tool for Schools resource

Teaches how to help prevent and address technology related incidents by building a cooperative relationship with schools. This free resource helps schools with the steps of incident management, such as fact-finding, documentation, reporting and engaging the appropriate school officials and other stakeholders. Through collaboration with law enforcement and the use of this tool, schools can plan and prepare an effective and appropriate response to all types of technology related incidents, including cyberbullying, sexting, hacking, and threats of violence.         

Cover image of the NCSSLE Higher Education Products

Compiles all NCSSLE-developed products related to higher education. These products include webinars, case studies, and prevention updates. They provide evidence-based approaches and best practices to successfully address campus prevention issues and implement strategies that improve student success.

Cover image of the Presidential Engagement of Students at Minority Serving Institutions resource

explores the ways that presidents engage with students, using traditional means as well as social media. As the United States becomes more heavily entrenched in social media as a form of open expression and communication, presidents have been tasked with using the various platforms to better engage with their students. The report addresses two questions: 1) What does past research say about college presidents and the engagement of students? and 2) How do presidents of Minority Serving Institutions engage students?

Cover image of the Safe Place: Trauma-Sensitive Practices for Health Centers Serving Students resource

Encompasses a broad range of material introducing and endorsing trauma-sensitive practice with an emphasis on sexual assault trauma. It is designed specifically for health center staff who serve as primary care providers to students in higher education. These tools are designed to supplement higher education efforts to develop campus-wide plans addressing sexual assault at their institutions. 

Cover page of Several of Secretary DeVos' Rethink Higher Education Regulations Take Effect as Department Issues New Rule to Protect Religious Liberty, Reform TEACH Grant Program resource

Highlights several new regulations based on U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' Rethink Higher Education agenda. In addition, includes rules forged by historic consensus negotiated rulemaking on accreditation and state authorization reform. 

Cover page of the The Talent Blind Spot: The Case for Increasing Community College Transfer to High Graduation Rate Institutions resource

Offers a path forward based on the work of several institutions that have demonstrated that creating robust community college transfer success is possible through strong, leadership-drive partnerships, early outreach and advising, and dedicated, holistic supports. The report helps readers understand the community college transfer landscape at high graduation rate colleges with data from the report.

American Institutes for Research

U.S. Department of Education

The contents of the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments Web site were assembled under contracts from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Supportive Schools to the American Institutes for Research (AIR), Contract Number  91990021A0020.

This Web site is operated and maintained by AIR. The contents of this Web site do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the U.S. Department of Education nor do they imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education.

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