By Diane Bernard

SACRAMENTO, California – California community colleges are joining a new national effort to help more adults of color gain credentials and degrees to close gaps in graduation rates and earnings.

Sandra Fried, vice president of the Foundation for California Community Colleges‘ Success Center, says taking part in the program will help the state’s goal to eliminate those disparities by 2027. She points out that, like the rest of the nation, adult enrollment has dropped significantly in the pandemic, particularly for adult students of color.

“Adult students and students of color have been hit hardest by the pandemic,” she said. “They have not enrolled in our programs in as high rates as they have in the past. And because they’ve been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, it’s really important to bring them back into our programs, and provide them the support and resources they need to be successful.”

The $8 million initiative, called the REACH Collaborative, aims to provide Black, Hispanic and Native American adult students support for needs such as child care, transportation or academic counseling to help them cross the finish line.

Wayne Taliaferro, strategy officer for Lumina Foundation, which is cosponsoring the program in California and five other states, said higher education wasn’t meeting the needs of adult students of color even before the pandemic, facing barriers to secondary education that many white students don’t have, such as limited financial resources.

“The REACH Collaborative aims to take an active step in shifting from this present reality at community colleges, where the bulk of adult students of color are enrolled,” he said. “A lot of adults enter community colleges to gain skills for jobs at different entry points, but the onramps don’t always lead to quality outcomes and better earnings – or outcomes at all.”

About 40% of Black Americans, 58% of Latinos and 50% of Native Americans age 25 and older have only a high-school diploma, compared with 31% of white Americans, according to a Lumina Foundation report.

 This article was originally published in Big News Network.

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