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Achieving Educational Equity in the United States

For a country in which robust job growth is critical to our future success, we know one sure path to progress—achieving fair and just educational outcomes among students of color as well as Americans from low-income families, first-generation students, and adults without post-high school credentials.

The economic future of many states depends on creating a “talent pipeline” that connects people with opportunities to find good-paying jobs and continue learning. At Lumina Foundation, our Talent, Innovation, Equity initiative is about helping to make that happen.

We call it TIE, and it’s about boosting to the next level some of the progress that’s already been made by states.

A major step forward by states has been the realization they need to close the educational attainment gaps that have been choking off progress for families and limiting the nation’s economic prosperity.

These equity gaps aren’t new. They’re longstanding and pervasive imbalances separating some groups from others—especially African-Americans, Hispanics and American Indians, who earn post-high school credentials at significantly lower rates than whites and Asian Americans.

Lumina supports a national goal of 60 percent of Americans earning college degrees, workforce certificates, industry certifications and other high-quality credentials by 2025. And we know there’s no way we’re going to hit that mark without realizing better results among poorly served groups.

Of course, this isn’t just about a number. Sixty percent is an important goal, but we’re really talking about the lives behind the numbers—lives dramatically improved when we get this right.

And by now we know the truth about real opportunity: There’s a difference between simply providing someone with an opportunity to succeed and ensuring the system of learning beyond high school is actually designed to help more people make it.

Access to education by itself—just getting in the front door—is not enough. What we have to talk about is a redesigned system focused on ensuring more people are able to complete their programs and earn credentials of value.

Too many students, particularly students of color, individuals from low-income families, first-generation students, and adults, get through the front door of our system of postsecondary education but don’t finish with credentials. We want to see that changed, because doing so provides the most direct pathway to better jobs, better pay—and better lives for more workers and their families.

You’ll know it as we get closer. You’re already seeing more states dedicating their resources toward creating talent pipelines. And as this movement grows, as our commitment to fairness moves the needle of equity, you’ll see more states shifting in this direction—and creating the kinds of changes that lead to more equitable opportunities and outcomes for everyone.

For more on the foundation’s TIE initiative, see: New Initiative Will Help States Address Postsecondary Outcomes Among Students of Color, Boost People With Education After High School.

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Lumina's Equity Imperative | 2 pg. PDF
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