The job of keeping students in school, though, can’t just rest with university administrators, alone.
Echoing the findings of the Lumina report — titled “A Stronger Nation through Higher Education” — Davenport argues community involvement is key to success. It takes churches and community groups, neighbors and family, he said, to support and encourage students to see their goal through to the end.
That support can come in the form of scholarships and financial aid to offset rising student debt loads, but it needn’t be that lavish. A roundtrip bus ticket for a weekend at home; $10 for a Sunday night dinner with friends; or even a simple phone call can mean a lot to a lonely student.
So much stands in the way of student success, Davenport said, including the sheer pressures of life that wear away the resilience needed to survive adversity.
He has seen firsthand how support can make the difference. His pregnant mother dropped out of school at 15, but never gave up the dream of being a schoolteacher. As a little boy, Davenport and his siblings sat in a college library while their determined mom took classes. She eventually earned two bachelor degrees before starting on her master’s.
But she didn’t do it on her own, Davenport said. She had three people — a husband, a best friend, and a benefactor in her community — who invested their time, love and money in her.
Davenport said it changed her world — and his. “It caused me and my brother and sister go to college. It will cause my children to go to college and their children to go to college and on and on,” he said. “One movement like that changes generations.”
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaureenHayden.