10 community colleges get chance to reshape racial equity

The USC Race and Equity Center and Achieving the Dream are launching an academy to help institutions develop a plan to make change on campus.
By: | February 4, 2021
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Starting this summer, representatives from 10 community colleges will get an opportunity to create a new vision for their campuses during a yearlong Racial Equity Leadership Academy.

Developed by Achieving the Dream and the University of Southern California Race and Equity Center, the program will provide those college leaders with the tools needed to successfully develop a racial equity plan and then implement it in the fall.

The lucky 10 were chosen from the network of 300 member schools at Achieving the Dream to participate. Their mission will be to develop more strategic frameworks for equity, diversity and inclusion that helps their students overcome barriers to persistence and completion.

“Achieving the Dream and our network colleges are facing an urgent call to action to address racial inequity on our campuses and in our communities,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream. “The Racial Equity Leadership Academy will give colleges the tools needed to drive transformation that is required to meet this moment.”

The 10 chosen to participate in the academy include:

  • Anne Arundel Community College (MD)
  • Austin Community College District (TX)
  • Broward College (FL)
  • Chattanooga State Community College (TN)
  • Columbus State Community College (OH)
  • Kingsborough Community College (NY)
  • Lee College (TX)
  • Montgomery County Community College (PA)
  • Mott Community College (MI)
  • Pierce College (WA)

When the program initially was announced in February of 2020, there already was a heightened need to address inequity in higher education. The COVID-19 pandemic widened those gaps, especially for students of color and those in low-income communities. The disparities became especially noticeable at community colleges, where enrollment numbers have plummeted year over year.

The tragic outcomes have led to an urgent response from large numbers of institutions, businesses and students. By addressing these issues now, colleges in the academy can ensure future populations of students are not forgotten.

“COVID-19 exacerbated longstanding racial inequities in higher education, and created new disparities that undermine success for community college students of color,” said Dr. Shaun R. Harper, founder and executive director of the University of Southern California Race and Equity Center. “Our partnership with Achieving the Dream will be a significant step in equipping college leaders with the knowledge and tools they need to address these challenges and other racial problems that confront their campuses.”

After a virtual orientation on Feb. 19, the teams will then convene for the Academy from July 26-29. Each college will be asked to identify a racial equity challenge they would like to overcome, then take part in discussions and learn best practices for how to achieve those goals. In the process, they will receive one-on-one support from a coach who will both come to campus and conduct a virtual check-in.

Beyond the academy, the USC Race and Equity Center offers several equity learning possibilities for institutions, including its eight-week development Equity Institutes, Racial Equity Leadership Academies and the California Community College Equity Leadership Alliance.

Achieving the Dream serves two-year institutions in 45 states, helping those colleges address equity gaps that can hamper student success. The organization also has a number of resources for colleges, including reports such as the AAC&U’s “A Vision for Equity”, Equity in Design for Holistic Student Supports, and an Equity-Minded Decision-Making Guide.