AAC&U Announces 12 Institutions Participating in New Initiative on Committing to Equity and Inclusive Excellence

With Funding from USA Funds, the Project Will Support Institutions as They Measure Progress and Implement New Equity-Minded Campus Strategies to Improve Student Success and Close Achievement Gaps

Washington, DC—August 26, 2015—The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) announced today the 12 institutions participating in a new “Committing to Equity and Inclusive Excellence: Campus-Based Strategies for Student Success” initiative funded by USA Funds. The initiative is designed to enhance student success and academic achievement, especially among underserved populations of low-income, first-generation and minority students, as well as adult learners. 

The 12 institutions selected to participate in the project include:

AAC&U Hispanic Outlook Jobs Higher Education
  • Anne Arundel Community College (MD)
  • California State University – Northridge (CA)
  • California State University – Sacramento (CA)
  • Clark Atlanta University (GA)
  • Dominican University (IL)
  • Florida International University (FL)
  • Governor’s State University (IL)
  • Lansing Community College (MI)
  • Morgan State University (MD)
  • North Carolina A&T State University (NC)
  • Pomona College (CA)
  • Wilbur Wright College (IL)

The 3 honorable mention institutions:

USA Funds Hispanic Outlook Jobs in Higher Education
  • Carthage College (WI)
  • Indiana University Northwest (IN)
  • Northern Illinois University (IL)

Supported with a $499,798 grant from USA Funds, the two-year AAC&U project will build on work developed as part of AAC&U’s signature initiative Making Excellence Inclusive and will advance AAC&U’s Centennial-Year focus on equity and excellence in higher education. Through the project, AAC&U will develop baseline evidence about existing campus efforts to track, improve, and close gaps in the achievement of key learning outcomes for all students. In guiding participating campuses in development of their action plans, project leaders will use this evidence and an equity framework outlined as part of AAC&U’s General Education Maps and Markers initiative and described in its recent publications, America’s Unmet Promise: The Imperative for Equity in Higher Education by the Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California, and Committing to Equity and Inclusive Excellence: A Campus Guide for Self-Study and Planning.

This project is supported as part of USA Funds’ focus on “Completion With a Purpose,” to enhance student success in college and career. USA Funds is working to streamline key education transitions, facilitate smoother pathways from campus to the workplace, promote innovative approaches to college and career preparation, and build new frameworks for data-driven decision-making.

“Both USA Funds and these institutions should be applauded for prioritizing and advancing integrated strategies to advance the success of all college students, especially those from low-income backgrounds and who are racial and ethnic minorities,” said AAC&U President Dr. Carol Geary Schneider. “We are pleased to partner with USA Funds and these institutions as part of the Completion With a Purpose initiative. I have noted elsewhere that the deep educational divides that reflect and perpetuate inequality in our society will take concerted, systemic, transforming action to overcome. This project alone won’t complete this transformation, but the work of these institutions can provide models and catalyze significant change throughout higher education to make excellence inclusive.”

Participating campuses will design, implement, and assess measurable campus action plans that can serve as replicable, equity-focused models for improving student learning and success. Campus teams will begin their work at an Equity Academy planned for October 2015 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and will develop plans to reverse inequities in student achievement of key learning outcomes important in the workplace today and advance success for underserved students. The project seeks to develop and implement lasting campus strategies resulting in increased postsecondary completion rates, improved learning gains, and better preparation of students for success in work and in life.

Central to campus action plans will be the development and implementation of guided learning pathways that incorporate high-impact practices and increased levels of intentionality to ensure that students are aware of learning goals at each step in their educational journeys and how their educational experiences are preparing them for future success.

“If our nation is to continue to prosper, men and women of all income levels and colors need enhanced levels of education,” said Dr. Lorenzo L. Esters, USA Funds Senior Program Director. “Unfortunately, the college completion and achievement gaps between the haves and have-nots have been growing, not shrinking. In keeping with our focus on Completion With a Purpose to promote college and career success for all students, USA Funds is pleased to support this initiative to address that college completion gap. We congratulate the institutions selected to pursue strategies for increasing access to quality programs and college completion rates for low-income, minority, and first-generation students, as well as for adult learners.”

AAC&U Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Student Success Dr. Tia McNair will lead the project. The Center for Urban Education (CUE) at the University of Southern California, under the leadership of Dr. Estela Mara Bensimon and Dr. Alicia Dowd, will be a key partner in the initiative. CUE staff will help develop the curriculum and materials for the Equity Academy, co-facilitate the Equity Academy with AAC&U project staff, monitor activities with the campus teams, and participate in the project evaluation.