Staying the course to meet our equity imperative
Student Success

Staying the course to meet our equity imperative

Recent news that the U.S. Department of Justice might redirect resources to investigate the use of race in college admissions rightly prompted much-concerned commentary in policy and educational circles. It seems appropriate for the community to pause and reflect on the larger issues at stake in this important debate about equity and inclusion.

In launching a new strategic plan seven months ago, Lumina Foundation made clear that “equity must be at the center of our work to increase postsecondary attainment and reach the goal that 60 percent of Americans hold degrees, certificates, or other high-quality postsecondary credentials by 2025.”

Our commitment to this equity imperative is grounded both in moral values and practical realities that lie at the heart of Lumina’s work and mission. As we noted in our plan, “the fact that not all Americans have access to high-quality postsecondary learning—and that race, ethnicity, income, and immigration status, among other factors, determine who does—is intolerable.” We also know that “The goal will remain out of reach unless postsecondary attainment [particularly] among African-Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians increases significantly.”

With this at the core of our work and mission, we are collaborating with many partners to advance an array of strategies that can significantly narrow racial/ethnic attainment gaps by 2025. Without such progress, we will fail to reach our larger and most urgent goal of ensuring that all people can develop their talents, participate fully as citizens in a diverse democracy, and thrive in a competitive economy.

While we are squarely focused on this work in the context of the future needs of our citizenry and the nation’s economy, we are also aware that we pursue this work in the context of our nation’s searing legacies of racism, segregation, and injustice. Those legacies are ever present in the nation’s ongoing dialogues about how to advance equity and fairness in policies and practices—and to increase meaningful opportunity for all people.

For this reason, we continue to support institutions’ use of all available legal means to increase access to high-quality postsecondary learning, especially for individuals from groups that have historically been excluded. We believe strongly that institutions have the right and the responsibility to ensure that racial minorities gain greater access to postsecondary learning, including the programs offered at our nation’s most selective and well-resourced institutions.

While Lumina works to improve all pathways to high-quality credentials—those that genuinely lead to success in employment and further learning—we must also work to reverse persistent inequities, especially in access to our most selective and prestigious institutions.

Moreover, we’re convinced that students in all credential pathways should attain intercultural competence and develop the capacity to work effectively and solve complex problems in diverse settings. To advance this learning goal, educators must shape and take advantage of the proven educational benefits of diverse learning environments. Decades of research and experience have affirmed that these advantages can and should accrue to all students, and that view has informed the decisions of our nation’s courts that institutions can use limited, individualized “race-conscious” admissions policies to help build a diverse student body.

As the nation continues to grapple with the urgent work of dismantling inequitable systems and practices, and as debate continues about how to do this work most fairly, we urge our colleagues in the higher education, policy, and civil rights communities to stay the course on advancing inclusion and excellence in higher education.

Diverse and equitable learning environments are, in fact, essential if we are to maintain excellence and quality in our nation’s colleges and universities—and assure national prosperity. Therefore, Lumina Foundation is committed to this urgent equity imperative and to advancing work focused on inclusion, diversity, and equity.

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