As Minnesota’s demographics continue to change, our state’s higher education system is ill equipped to address the opportunity gap. The US Census numbers show that Minnesota has one of the largest gaps in the country for college completion between Black/African Americans and White Non-Hispanics. The US Census also shows that the gap is too large for Hispanic, Asian and Native communities. To make matters worse, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education in a 2015 report on college completion rates said that the “state may be losing ground in educational attainment for communities of color.”
The 2015 legislature set an attainment goal that 70 percent of Minnesota residents from the ages of 25-44 hold a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2025, and that this must be achieved by all racial and ethnic minorities. If we continue to delay work in addressing the opportunity gap, it will become even more difficult to identify solutions that can address this problem in the timeline outlined by the Minnesota legislature.
At LeadMN believe that a lack of focus on key equity and diversity issues, is hampering our system and campuses from being the best and most inclusive environments possible for our students. In some cases, it is even limiting students’ ability to successfully navigate their educational program and graduate. We have a moral obligation to address these issues now.
In September 2016, MSCSA sent a letter to the Board of Trustees outlining four proposals that were necessary first steps to address the equity challenges facing Minnesota State students. The four proposals included:
- Require that a new System Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan be created within 12 months.
- Double the size of the Equity and Inclusion Office in the system.
- Bring an equity lens to the Board of Trustees.
- Create benchmarks and timelines to develop more culturally competent curriculum.
In addition, we are working to improve developmental education to remove barriers that student face in completing college. During the 2017 legislative we passed legislation that requires Minnesota State to develop a plan to create accelerated pathways and offers students multiple measures to complete their requirements. LeadMN will continue to monitor this plan in the coming year.