Social belonging programs

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program basics

  • Aim to reduce students’ social isolation and its effects on academic achievement
  • Employs narratives that describe the social experiences of upper-level students at the university
  • Reframing adversity as common and transient rather than something unique to students or their ethnic group
  • Researchers had students write essays to internalize the messages and make video testimonials for future students

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Promising (Third-highest tier)


Promising (Third-highest tier)

Social belonging programs are not yet in any of the major clearinghouses, but have demonstrated positive results in an independent, high-quality evaluation conducted by

Target population

Incoming and current college students

Program cost


Implementation locations

  • Not available

Dates active

Not available

Outcomes and impact

  • No statistically significant results on general population
  • Statistically significant effect on GPA

Keys to successful implementation

  • Note: This content is under review.
  • Partner with administrators and senior leaders to incorporate social belonging framing into campus-wide messaging and to pursue a broader culture change that fosters belonging, especially with orientation or Welcome Week communications.
  • Leverage the “saying-is-believing” effect by having students share their experience of belonging both in written form and spoken form. Consider using anonymity in these exercises.
  • Recruit older students to facilitate social belonging programming and to share their own stories of non-belonging.
  • Avoid singling out students from stigmatized groups or delivering interventions only to them; effective social belonging programs pursue a broad campus culture shift.
  • Effective program delivery can vary, including both in-person programming to online platforms.

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