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It’s important, but not easy, to be hopeful at a time like this. We’re all reeling from the confluence of pain caused by the global health pandemic and the economic shockwaves that followed its onset. Our rational minds tell us that one day we’ll be on the other side of all of this, but addressing the health and economic challenges alone won’t leave us whole. In this moment, we have an opportunity to finally resolve the systemic racism that has plagued our nation.
At Lumina Foundation, we’re embracing the potential of this moment for real change by reaffirming our longstanding commitment to equity in educational outcomes. Now, we’re launching our Equity First Framework in an effort to ensure that recovery means progress for everyone –that we refuse to settle for the unfairness of our shared past.
Think about the intersection of suffering laid bare recently by both the pandemic and the convulsion of pain following the George Floyd killing. We saw with a new clarity the racial inequities that have always plagued this country’s educational, economic, criminal justice, and health care systems, among others.
Sometimes these disparities lie just beneath the surface, and at other times they are in plain view; but whatever form they take, society typically finds ways to ignore, justify, or simply explain them away. For the sake of the nation’s future, if not simple fairness, we can’t let that continue.
At Lumina Foundation, we know that a good K-12 education just isn’t enough anymore, and learning beyond high school is necessary to be a part of the middle class. But there are longstanding and persistent differences in who gets to enjoy this reality.
Entrenched policies, practices, and beliefs continue to stand in the way of the education that Black and Hispanic Americans seek. While the educational attainment rate for all races has increased over the last five years to 53 percent, the attainment rate for Hispanics still sits at 25 percent. For Black Americans, it’s 32 percent. For both groups, the gaps have narrowed by less than a single percentage point in five years – and have actually grown in some states. Meanwhile, 48 percent of white students have attained a degree or credential.
These and so many other signs of our systemic failure to assure equity are unacceptable for a country as great as ours. But as the old saying goes, if we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always gotten. So, at Lumina we’re making racial justice and equity our No. 1 priority.
We call this effort “Equity First.” It fuels our grantmaking, of course, but it also helps guide our operations, including Lumina’s finance, investments, human resources, and legal departments. We’ve identified three core elements to this approach:
Equity First represents an exciting opportunity for us to recalibrate our efforts to address a scourge as old as America itself. No country can hold its people down without spiraling downward as well, and our collective aspirations are far greater than the levels of fairness and equity we’ve reached thus far. As we rise to meet the challenges of COVID, the economy, and our racially stained past, we can and must do better.Back to News
Members of the Lumina Foundation staff are sharing our “equity narratives” – personal journeys around race in America. These are part of a collective effort to explore the country’s long history of structural racism and how these barriers affect the people we’re trying to help — and influence how and why we chose this work. Read more about the project.
The last recession consumed the modest wealth of Black and Hispanic communities, further deepening racial wealth divides and burdening college students from these communities with higher loan debt. Today, the United States is experiencing another severe economic downturn, with record-high unemployment fueled by a pandemic—and it’s affecting college affordability even more dramatically. Read more »