Equity equals student success at University of Wisconsin-Parkside

U-W Parkside has the largest population of first-generation students in the state system, leaders say

The Moon Shot for Equity will change the way math is taught and the way students are advised, among other student success work at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

As part of the Moon Shot—a multi-institution equity initiative—the university is considering not requiring all students to take college algebra, Provost Rob Ducoffe says.

“College algebra is really only relevant for students going into STEM fields,” Ducoffe says. “We want to offer more relevant math courses for each students’ academic career track because the data show students do much better in math courses that are relevant to their majors.”

UW-Parkside has joined the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee Area Technical College in the national “Moon Shot” to collaborate on new, equitable student success strategies.

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In the math realm, the university also plans to change its developmental courses for students who aren’t considered to be ready for college math. New co-requisite courses will let students earn credits while they get extra math help to catch up, Ducoffe says.

Administrators also intend to introduce a “credit-momentum” strategy that encourages students to take more courses each semester.

Moon Shot team members

Here’s how two other schools in the initiative are approaching their moon shots:

Research shows students who take only 12 credits a semester, as financial aid requires, graduate at lower rates than students who take a full course load of 15. Data shows that students who start with 15 credits can get higher grades in college regardless of high school academic preparation.

“We serve a lot of first-generation students, students of color, and students from modest economic backgrounds,” Ducoffe says. “We’ve told them to go easy for the first semester or two but in lowering that expectation out of the gate, the data show that these students were graduating at far lower rates.”

Closing equity gaps in income

Nearly 40% of the students at U-W Parkside identify as students of color, while the university has the largest population of first-generation students in the state system. A key goal is to increase its graduate by 50% by 2025, Parkside Chancellor Deborah Ford says

“Being the most diverse campus in the U-W system is something we celebrate and champion,” Ford says. “We are on a quest to become the most equitable and inclusive.”

Ford says the Moon Shot has grown out of the 18-member Higher Education Regional Alliance, which comprises 18 Milwaukee-area colleges and universities that have work to align academic programs and build bridges to industry, the nonprofit sector and government.

Like in many parts of the country, workforce demands in southeast Wisconsin have shifted away from manufacturing jobs that didn’t require a college degree.

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At the same time, Milwaukee and Racine, Wisconsin, have some of the biggest income gaps between Black and white residents of any cities in the country.

“In Wisconsin, like the rest of the country, you need more education to have a decent life today,” Ducoffe says. “Our community is a bit behind in educational attainment. This work we’re doing, especially as it relates to generating better outcomes for students of color, is particularly important in this part of the country.”

Wisconsin’s Moon Shot schools will be guided by national mentors Houston GPS and Georgia State University, both of which have done pioneering work in closing equity gaps.

The four institutions will also work with the education firm, EAB, to track data, implement technology and develop new solutions.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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